As another year begins, many prospective international students are setting their goals. For those applying to colleges, this year is a milestone, so you need to focus your time and energy on maximizing the quality of your applications. These are a few tips that can help you better prepare for a challenging time.
1. Organize your documents: Transcript, letters of recommendation, SAT score reports, finance documents – every single item that is necessary for the college application process should be prepared. My friends and I made 20 copies of each piece of paperwork to ensure that we had enough to apply to a number of colleges.
Getting everything organized at the beginning of the year saves you time and energy. For instance, I had not paid attention to my financial statements until I began applying. This put another burden on me during the application season, as I had to call home every day to rush my parents to send in those documents.
2. Read self-help books: You can choose to read anything that can help you improve your social, conversational or leadership skills. While reading these are not necessary and those skills can be mastered once you enter the college environment, it is still a good idea to learn from other people’s mistakes and shortcuts to emotional and mental fulfillment.
Books such as “How to Win Friends and Influence People” can give you some tips on making friends easily by changing your communication style, and others such as “The Power of Habit” may help you build a healthier and more focused lifestyle. Learning these skills early helps you tremendously in a college environment, where you are going to make a lot of friends and professional connections.
3. Think of other things that can help improve your application: I have a friend who is going to a studio to record a song, which she will eventually send to her dream school to show her passion for singing. I have another friend who is filming his beatboxing skills to show admissions counselors that he is both cheeky and talented.
These things might sound simple, but they really show the human element behind your GPA and SAT scores. They give the school better insight on whether you may be a good fit with the school. Therefore, if there is anything that you can do to show that you deserve admission, you should not hesitate to do it.
4. Ask professionals about their careers: I did not decide on my double major until my second year of college, and I always wish that I could go back in time and take all the necessary courses. Had I spent more time talking to professionals about their careers, what they do and the pros and cons that are associated with those professions, I would have been able to save myself a lot of time and effort.
Deciding what to major in is a difficult process at this stage of your life. For instance, in some countries, parents urge their children to study medicine. However, those who do so because of their parents tend not to stay very long in the program. In the end, very few of those students end up pursuing the field of medicine and they tend to regret not choosing something else to study.
It is you who know best about your interests, goals and aspirations. Therefore, you should seize every opportunity, whether it is an internship, shadowing program or just a volunteering event to learn more about the places where you may want to work.
5. Form a group to study and apply to college together: As international students, our college application process can be much more rigorous than that of American students. Many schools prefer higher SAT scores and accept a minimal percentage of us each year. There are also a lot of forms and documents that we have to fill out during this time, so stress and fatigue are sometimes inevitable.
Having peers who understand your situation and have a common goal can be a relief. You can either help edit each other’s essays, or encourage other students to keep moving when they are behind in the process. The more you help your friends, the more you will receive back from them.