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What U.S. Colleges Look for in International Candidates

Generally speaking, U.S. colleges and universities look for the same qualities in international students as they require from domestic students. The college wants to see evidence of high academic achievement, student work ethic and college readiness. International students, however, often need to provide additional documentation proving their academic credentials.

U.S. Grade Point Average

In the United States, a college applicant’s GPA, or grade point average, plays an important role in college admission. The GPA is a numerical value based on your last three years of academic classes. For most freshmen, or first-year college students, this number reflects their high school achievements.

Your country’s school system may use different methods of assessing student success and awarding high school or college degrees. If so, you’ll need to engage a professional academic evaluating service to verify your academic credentials and translate them into an American-style grade point average that college application committees understand.

Choosing High School Courses

A high secondary school GPA is not the only criteria colleges look for in prospective students. The types of courses you take during your high school years also matter. Students who take increasingly challenging courses make a better impression than those who take “easy” courses. For instance, U.S. colleges prefer students who take college preparation courses or International Baccalaureate courses before applying to college.

A consistent grade point average indicates your ability to handle studies as they increase in difficulty. Even better are GPA scores showing a steady improvement in marks, as this suggests your work ethic, study skills and maturity improve over time.

On the other hand, erratic or declining GPAs are cause for concern, as the scores may indicate inconsistent students. Sometimes, of course, grades drop temporarily for personal reasons, such as illness or family deaths. If this is the case, a letter from your high school counselor may help colleges understand inconsistent scores.

Sit the SAT

In addition to GPA scores, U.S. colleges and universities pay attention to student SAT scores. American students take the SAT, or Standardized College Entrance Test, before graduating high school. The SAT tests a student’s mathematic reasoning, writing ability and critical reading skills. As all American students take the same SAT, the test offers colleges an objective measurement of a student’s college readiness.

The SAT is available to international students. At least 200,000 international students take the SAT every year, in over 1,000 international testing centers. Testing occurs in November, December, January, May and June of every year. If you plan to attend a U.S. college, taking the SAT is highly advisable.