4 Essential Items for a U.S. College Application

As a senior in high school, you only apply to college once in your life, so it can be both very exciting and emotionally exhausting. College applications are stressful because missing a single item can jeopardize your chances of admission. 

Therefore, we have a few essential tips for international students about important items they need to include that can help strengthen the quality of an application and potentially make them stand out as applicants. 

1. Certification of finances: This document does not have to consist of all of your parents’ financial information, tax returns or a marriage certificate. I have seen too many international students stressed out about this part of their application because they think that it is a complicated matter.

Remember, you are not applying for a U.S. visa or a green card at this point. All admissions counselors want is to see your ability to pay for your education. In many cases, a statement of income from your parents with a signature from an authority will suffice.
I went on the website of each college that I applied to to find out if they required additional information besides the certificate of financial ability. I learned that all 10 out of 10 did not require any further documentation. In some cases, there are a colleges that do require tax forms and bank statements, such as Wake Forest University, so it’s best that you go on their website and check the information beforehand. 

2. Know how to present referrals or references: In a lot of countries, there are services that get paid to translate letters of recommendation into English. You can bring this translation to a government authority to get approval. You can even ask the department of education in your hometown to facilitate this process. However, due to the volume of students, they might not be able to deal with your document in time.

When you ask your high school teacher to write you a letter of recommendation, you must remember to ask for his or her permission to put their phone number and email address on the letter as well, because in some cases, admissions people may want to verify that letter.

Too many times, students forget to put down the phone number and email address of their teachers. It may be because those writing the letters do not speak English, or because they think that it is not necessary. 

3. An explanation of your country’s grading system: Different countries have different ways to assess a student’s academic performance. For instance, Teachers in Vietnam do not give out letter grades like A’s or B’s, or grade students on a scale of 100. Rather, they use a scale of 10, with a minimum division of 0.25.

For students from my hometown, a 8.0 out of 10.0 is considered excellent, which is equivalent to an A in an American classroom. Personally, the highest I have had over the years is a 9.0 out of 10.0 overall, which made me extremely proud of myself.

You do not want your admissions counselor to misread your 8.0 and assume that it is only an 80 our of 100. Instead, you should write to explain the grading system, and tell them that you have worked hard to earn the grade on your transcript today. At the end of your letter, you need to make sure that you have someone from the board of education acknowledge that the explanation is accurate. This usually comes in the form of a signature or a short written confirmation.

4. Mention any siblings or relatives that attend the college: From my observation, American college admissions counselors love to see generations of family members going to the same college. Once these loyal generations of students graduate and become successful, they are likely to give back to the alma matter.

A lot of college endowment money comes from loyal alumni. When generations of a family attend the same college, the school taps into that loyalty – and hopes for a high rate of return. 

One of the top recruiters at my college is an alumnus with a professional services firm. He holds the leading position in the firm and comes back every year to recruit talented students and give them exposure to the business world.

Many of his family members are now students at my school. His loyalty brings him back and encourages him to give back to the community.

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