Sep 29, 2017

Advice for International Students Enrolling in U.S. Colleges


Did you know that approximately four percent of all students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities are from other countries? The number of international students just keeps on growing, but that doesn’t mean that the application and enrollment process is easy for international students. At, we’ve seen how it is even harder for international students to enroll in specifically online colleges. If you live outside of the country but want to attend college in the United States, here is some helpful advice for international students enrolling in U.S. colleges.


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First off, you should know that a large amount of time is needed to apply for admission to a U.S. college or university. It can take even U.S. citizens months to apply and be accepted into a degree program, so international students in particular should start the process with more than enough time in advance to meet the application deadlines. Some application deadlines are up to 10 months before the start of the academic term. An efficient timeline is 18 months prior to the desired start of study in the U.S.

18 Months Before International Studies Begin

At least a year and a half before the school year begins, an international student should research a variety of colleges and universities to determine for which program he or she is eligible and wants to apply. Students should also register and prepare for the required tests. Undergraduate students should register for the SAT and TOEFL examination, while graduate students need to determine if they are required to register for the GMAT and/or GRE examinations.

A Year Before Studies Begin

A year before you plan to attend college, you should have narrowed down the list of schools you plan to apply for and gather all required documents and forms for each institution. International students should contact each school to receive application materials. Keep in mind that many schools make application materials available on their official websites. Students should carefully note the deadlines for each institution and inform the school if they are interested in receiving financial aid. At this time, international students should also take the required entrance examinations.

10 Months Before International Studies Begin

10 to 12 months before the start of the desired school year, you should definitely have all necessary application documents. If you have not received any application forms, you should repeat your request. During this time you should identify references–such as teachers or other individuals who know them at an academic level–and ask them to write letters of recommendation. Let your references know what program you’re applying for and give them plenty of time to compose their letter of recommendation. International students should also request transcripts and write application essays around this time frame. If your initial scores on entrance examinations were substandard, this is the best time to retake those tests.

About 10 months prior to enrollment, international students should complete and mail in all applications to the colleges and universities they hope to attend. Creating a checklist for the required items for each application is helpful. Although applications will differ by institution they commonly require the following items:

  • Cover sheet that specifies and lists all of the included information in the packet
  • A non-refundable application fee in U.S. dollars
  • Completed application form that includes personal information and academic credentials
  • Application essay or purpose statement
  • Official transcripts (including grades and test scores)
  • Standardized test scores
  • Letters of recommendation and references
  • Required financial information, such as financial forms from schools

Remember to make copies of all application materials and essays before mailing in the originals to your schools of choice. After a school receives your completed application, a representative might get in contact with you and request additional information. Typically, students receive acceptance decisions by April or May for fall admission. Once a student is granted admission, he or she must confirm their intent to enroll.

3 Months Before International Studies Begin

At least three months before enrollment, international students should apply for their student visas, research health insurance options, and arrange travel accommodations for their arrival into the U.S. You’ll also need to think about registering for student housing, as well as completing and returning health and immunization documents.

At the start of the semester, most colleges and universities offer a new international student orientation to help ease the transition to the institution and the U.S. Typically, the orientation provides a wealth of information about the school and campus, programs, extracurricular activities and clubs, and helpful resources.

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