Hi, it’s Winnie again!
So here’s my post on how to approach the college process from an international’s perspective! I’ve actually saved this paragraph for last.
Scanning over what I’ve just wrote, it feels like the advice I’ve given is vague and somewhat obvious, but hey! The most obvious things are often the most important, because they’re so obvious people tend to overlook them. The application process was a hit and miss experience for me, but I got lucky and did alright.
Here are some of the things I felt I did correctly and made an difference with, hope they help!
If you are studying in an American system school, I guess it’s okay to start taking your SATs and APs well into junior year, and start on college applications after summer holidays.
But keep in mind that THE RESULTS OF PROCRASTINATING TOO MUCH ARE MORE CATASTROPHIC FOR INTERNATIONALS.
You already have less time for applications and such. Once you start leaving everything to the last minute and start entering you classroom like this every morning,
I ‘m pretty sure that it’ll have a bad impact on your school grades and test grades.
“But procrastinating is human nature!”
That’s why you should start as early as you can. I definitely procrastinated more than I should’ve (who doesn’t) but I was still relatively safe in the end, sending in my application 2-3 days before the deadline. I started taking my SATs in sophomore year, a total of 2 SAT I’s and 2 SAT II’s spanning almost 3 years; the slow pacing allowed me to be unproductive now and then, and spared me a crazily intense double identity academic life.
Of course, not everyone decides that they want to study abroad as early as that, and don’t freak out if you’re only starting to prepare at the end of your junior year– it’s just that you have to be more unforgiving with yourself, that’s all.
BE RESOURCEFUL AND AGGRESSIVE
Pay attention to your school’s bulletin, and squeeze out everything you can get from the school
Maybe it’s just because of my specific Asian culture, but honestly, it still kind of awes me how many clubs and startups and leadership positions people have in the States. At first, it felt as if everyone but me had a ton of diverse experiences and impressive records.
But actually, I’ve found that my school’s bulletin was a great place to find stuff that interested me, and just by regularly scanning it and handing in forms now and then, I managed to go to a lot of unforgettable events.
Oftentimes important events or serious academic positions recruit via school connections, so look out for the latest school announcements! (Remember, how passionate you are about your experiences is still more important than the number of experiences you had. But that’s not exactly relevant to this international student post and should be left for another article.)
Here’s another example and advice specific to people who live in non-English speaking countries:
The Taiwanese high school system is typically very inflexible, but we have a special exemption system where you can take a test and be exempted from certain required course. I heard of this via our online announcement system; a small line of text admist all the other announcements.
The discovery helped me a LOT in the past 3 years; taking out a 6 hour chunk of English classes per week out of an 9-hour day schedule, it definitely took a lot of pressure off my shoulders.
If your school offers something like this, do not let go of this opportunity.(If you’re considering studying abroad, I’m assuming your English is better than most of your school peers)
If you don’t know if your school offers something like this, ask and ask and ask and pester the school administration (in a polite way) or make deals with your English teacher or find other ways that might work. Try until you’re sure there isn’t any other way, and after that don’t let yourself dwell on it too much.
Google anything you don’t know
If you lack anything, search the almighty Internet. You’ve probably noticed that I’m not going to talk about how to prepare for the SAT, what the format is for the SAT, what in the world is an SAT.
The reason is that just by googling “American college applications” hundreds and thousands of websites pop up telling you the nuts and bolts of the system : ) ((I especially recommend Wikipedia and CollegeConfidential, though take the information in the latter with a grain of salt.))
Do everything you have to do and more
We didn’t have a School Profile. I had to help my school’s counseling office write it. What’s more, my school’s English website was last updated in 2006 and actually has less information on it than the Wikipedia school page.
So I spent at least 20 hours with 2-3 classmates who were also planning on studying abroad, running around the school gathering statistics from different offices, searching the Ministry of Education’s website for education requirements then translating them, designing the profile format… If I may say so, I think the result looked pretty badass.
All the good universities in America definitely have a penchant for students who make the most of their environment; the lack of resources international students have can actually be used to our advantage. Show them that despite having to go out of your way to take standardized tests, to relearn courses for the tests aforementioned, and lacking stuff that every other American school apparently has, you found a way around it and still enjoyed yourself in high school.
Which brings me to the last thing I wanted to talk about:
REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN AND GO CRAZY NOW AND THEN
I guess it might be easy to forget, when you’re submerged in the doubleload of schoolwork, or when you have marching band competitions and SATs in the same week and 9 finals in the next (believe me, I feel your pain) ESPECIALLY if you grew up in a world similar to mine, where local schools simply look at your scores and admit you.
Like I said before, American universities like to admit students who flourished in their high school environment, and that extends beyond academics. By simply enjoying your high school life and naturally incorporating the fact into your essays, you’re adding to your application’s appeal.
It’s also interesting to note that amongst the other good US unis, I think Stanford gives off a more vibrant, happy, fun-loving vibe.
Maybe, just maybe, the school intentionally chose students who gave them this happy impression …. and maybe it’s just a result of having better weather than the East coast Ivies. But it won’t hurt you either way!
Remember that you only experience high school once ; ) try doing something stupid and fun and whimsical (in a harmless way) when you feel tired and depressed and demotivated. I’m sure that most of you won’t have problems finding something fun to do, but I’ll be more than happy to share with you a few crazy things I did in high school.
Such as cutting my raincoat into pieces in the pouring rain, and making makeshift rainboots with it just because I thought it would be nicer to have dry feet than dry everything-except-feet.
And having a year-long debate with my friends on what would be more edible, excrement that tasted like curry, or curry that tasted like poop.