When a student decides where to apply to university, he or she may consider many different factors. The student may wish to ensure that he or she will be able to focus on the field of his or her choosing, and that he or she will have access to the resources and support necessary for success. He or she may also wish to be in an environment that provides numerous academic and social opportunities.
Choosing universities to apply to is a personal and subjective process, but it is one that can be influenced by many different things—information from the school, the opinions of parents and friends, and the media. Unfortunately, when it comes to American universities, the media (including television and films) sends many messages that are not entirely accurate. These messages have allowed certain myths to develop that could negatively influence an international student’s perspective. They include the beliefs that:
1. American schools prefer American students
While it is true that native-born Americans have certain advantages when applying to American universities—including a relative mastery of American English and a familiarity with the United States academic system—these advantages are not as important as you might think.
Most schools strive for a diverse staff, faculty, and student body. This allows for varied perspectives on a wide variety of subjects, and it can contribute to important (and fruitful) classroom discussions. Moreover, as the concept of a global society grows, certain fields like business and political science place a greater emphasis on global issues, all of which makes international students an asset on American campuses.
2. International students will not be tolerated
In recent years, there has been a great deal of public discourse in the United States related to immigrants or those individuals with non-Western beliefs or cultures. Unfortunately, this has led many people to feel as though Americans are intolerant of others who come from vastly different backgrounds. It is important to remember that these perspectives generally originate from a very small minority.
The United States is often still very welcoming of differences, especially on college campuses. As previously noted, universities have a strong desire to create a diverse environment in classrooms and extracurriculars, which means that a non-Western background could be more likely to help you in your application than to hurt.
3. Admissions committees will not understand my essay
As an international student, you have experiences and interests that American-born applicants very likely do not. As such, you may believe that an American admissions committee will not understand your point of view, or that they might struggle to see the importance of these events within the context of your life.
This is a reasonable concern, but keep in mind that the faculty and staff at American schools are comprised of professionals from across the globe. Moreover, they review hundreds of applications each year from students around the world. Even if they have no personal experience with the content of your essay, they are likely familiar with it.
4. There is no support in the application process
If you have started researching universities, you have no doubt realized that the process of applying to college can be long, arduous, and at times quite stressful. Throughout this process, you will be required to fill out many forms and submit many documents, about which you may have questions. You may also be thinking that an American school will not offer the same kinds of support to an international student that they would to a student who is stateside.
It is true that the considerable distance between you and the university might make the process a bit more challenging, but the school most likely has a fully qualified staff of admissions counselors and an office of international student affairs. These individuals will do their absolute best to answer any questions or accommodate any requests you may have.
David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world's largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.