ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled Saved to Favorites.
Articles / Applying to College / Where to Start if You're an International Student Aiming to Study in the U.S. During COVID-19

Where to Start if You're an International Student Aiming to Study in the U.S. During COVID-19

Rob Franek
Written by Rob Franek | Dec. 17, 2020
Where to Start if You're an International Student Aiming to Study in the U.S. During COVID-19


As an international student, you may be hitting some roadblocks while trying to complete your applications to U.S. colleges. Navigating a college admission process that's different than your home country's procedures can be tricky even during typical application cycles, let alone in the midst of a pandemic. If you're feeling overwhelmed, try the following courses of action to get started.

Monitor Your Visa Eligibility

The rules regarding student visa eligibility are swiftly-changing as a result of COVID, so be sure to check policies with any school you're applying to. The critical factor here is that if your school is conducting its courses 100 percent online, you may not be able to obtain a visa. You can still attend, but you'd have to do so from outside the U.S. To be eligible for an F-1 or M-1 visa, you will most likely need to be taking some sort of in-person class.

Be in Touch With Your School About Financial Aid Options

Although international students are not eligible for federal aid in the U.S., you may be able to obtain need-based or merit-based institutional aid. Aid availability varies from college to college, but now would be the time to research what's out there and what steps you need to take in order to be considered. Begin with contacting the financial aid office of your prospective school to learn about opportunities, requirements and any necessary forms you'll need to fill out like the International Student Financial Aid Application (or ISFAA) or the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile.

Find out if Your School Is Adopting Test-Optional Policies

COVID-19 has made it difficult for students stateside and abroad to take the SAT and ACT. Many colleges recognize this challenge and have, in fact, gone test-optional. This means that, while you are not required to submit a score for admission, you certainly can if you want to. A test-optional school will consider scores submitted as supplemental application materials. However, it's worth noting that some schools may have adopted test-optional policies for admission but still require test scores for academic placement or merit-based institutional aid.

Take the TOEFL iBT if Applicable

If you're an international student with a native language other than English, plan to demonstrate your English proficiency by taking the TOEFL iBT. In late October, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) indicated that more than half of its testing centers had reopened. Because openings and availability vary by country, visit ETS' website at ets.org to search for available test centers in your area.

Additionally, the TOEFL exam is available as an at-home exam in countries in which the exam is normally administered, excluding mainland China and Iran. This "TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition" is identical in content, format and scoring to the exam provided at a test center and is a great, safe alternative for students. The test is available 24 hours a day, four days a week, through December 31, 2020.

Written by

Rob Franek

Rob Franek

College Admissions and Test Prep Expert

More on Applying to College

See all
typing at computer- karolina-grabowska-6958506-resized

Changes to the Common App for the 2022-2023 School Year

The Common App for the 2022-2023 application cycle opened up on August 1, 2022 and is available for students to start right now. …


UChicago Released 2022-2023 Essay Prompts and We're Loving Them

Each year, applicants to The University of Chicago are asked to answer two supplemental essay questions. Sounds normal enough, ri…

Does Early Decision Increase Your Chances- Keira Burtun- Cropped

Does Early Decision Increase Your Chances of Acceptance?

The short answer to this question is, YES. Apply early to college may give you an advantage in the admissions process because col…


California Makes Completing the FAFSA Mandatory

California has joined seven other states in implementing a policy that makes it mandatory for all graduating high school seniors …

Need Help Paying for College?
VIew Offers