Do Colleges Examine Your Online Presence?

Do Colleges Examine Your Online Presence?

Elizabeth Hoyt

You should undoubtedly clean up your social media presence, but how much do colleges really look at your posts?

You should undoubtedly clean up your social media presence, but how much do colleges really look at your posts?

You’ll be relieved to learn they don’t – at least not in the usual circumstances.

In fact, fewer than one in three admissions officers say they check applicant’s social media posts and/or Google them when evaluating their applications, according to a Kaplan survey conducted in 2014.

The survey found that “over a third (35%) of college admissions officers have visited an applicant’s social media page to learn more about them, according to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2014 survey of college admissions officers.”

However, they’ve been tracking this college admissions factor since 2008 and back then it was one in ten admissions officers. Then, that number was one in five – so don’t count out the possibility entirely. This is the highest percentage since tracking this – so the number is likely even higher now.

A Moral Dilemma

For the most part, admissions officers felt it was an invasion of the student’s privacy. The majority of admissions officers were “appalled” at the practice of looking into a student’s private online presence.

“I just think it’s wrong to do,” said Richard Shaw, dean of admissions at Stanford University.

But, then again, you never know.

The Numbers

In addition to the morality of the issue, admissions officers also say there are far too many prospective students to Google or search on social media platforms for each individual.

Consider a small school – the admissions officers would have to evaluate thousands of profiles online, assuming they were looking into each student.

Also, because they want to remain consistent, most officers feel that it’s unfair to Google a portion of the applicants, so it’s all or nothing when it comes to looking at a student’s online presence.

Do You Want Them to Look?

This can be a good or bad thing, depending on your particular situation.

For example, if you’re constantly tweeting about issues that matter, trying to start-up social initiatives and have been featured in the local paper as a hero, you may want to be Googled.

Inversely, if your social media presence isn’t so family-friendly, you probably would breathe a sigh of relief at learning your social media posts are not likely to be examined – but you should probably clean up your act, just in case.

When Asked…

If you specifically ask a college to look at something you’re proud of on the internet, they are more likely to do so, assuming the admissions officer has time.

According to Christine Brown, executive director of K12 and college prep programs for Kaplan Test Prep, “There’s no doubt social media has become increasingly a part of the admissions process, but students should recognize that it still plays only a peripheral role. The majority of admissions officers are not looking at Facebook for applicant information, and even those who are typically do so as an anomaly — because they were flagged, either positively or negatively, to particular applicants.”

“Admissions chances are still overwhelmingly decided by the traditional factors of high school GPA, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, personal essays and extracurricular activities. Applicants’ online personas are really a wild card in the admissions process: the bottom line for students is that what you post online likely won’t get you into college, but it just might keep you out,” said Brown.

Safety First

Many students become more cautious of their web presence when submitting applications. Rightfully so: clean up your posts, just in case, because you never know who’s looking!

Increasing the Odds

Once you get into smaller numbers like, say, becoming a finalist for a scholarship or internship, the likelihood of your personal online presence will increase.

So, a basic rule to follow is: the more you put yourself out there, the less you should put yourself out there online. Unless of course you want to put yourself out there and be noticed for positive reasons.

To learn more about what you should or should not post online, check out these social media do’s and don’ts for students.

What’s your social media policy?

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Getting into College with Bad Grades

Getting into College with Bad Grades

Elizabeth Hoyt

The number one rule to follow in college admissions? Don’t give up!

Have bad grades? Believe it or not, it’s not always the end-all, be-all in terms of gaining entry into the college of your dreams. Don’t give up!

Attempt to combat your admissions struggle by considering these helpful tips:

Submit an explanation (in certain cases) –

First, consider why your grades were, um, less than stellar. College admissions officers don’t want to hear excuses unless the circumstances were absolutely out of your control. If that’s the case, submit a brief but thorough explanation of the circumstances. Again, only submit an explanation regarding your grades if the circumstances were completely, utterly, nothing-on-earth-you-could-have-done-to-avoid-it, one hundred percent out of your control.

What falls under this? An illness or injury that impacted your cognitive abilities (head trauma, dyslexia diagnosed later in your high school career, etc.), a death within your immediate family (sorry, grandma and your third cousin don’t count, no matter how difficult it was) and, perhaps but not always included are moving and switching schools mid-year or a poor domestic situation that was out of the norm, like a messy parental divorce.

Remember, excuses like breaking up with you high school significant other, not getting along with or claiming a teacher was unfair and other stresses typical in high school won’t work. In fact, they will work against you because it comes across as placing blame on others (no matter how real or true they are). Anything that a typical high school student experiences is likely a poor excuse.

Also, make sure your grade or grades are really bad, if you’re submitting an explanation. Explaining the lone “B” amongst your straight A’s will likely just irritate the admissions counselor.

Apply regular admission rather than early –

Your odds of being accepted during regular admission are far better than the selective process of early admission. Early decision/early admission is meant for students that not only are sure of the school they want to go to, but also confident in their ability to get into that school.

Consider community college –

Why not consider attending a community college for a year (or two), getting your grades up and then applying to the four-year college you originally wanted to attend.

Look at schools with conditional acceptance programs –

If you’re on the cusp, there are plenty of schools out that that give students the opportunity to attend the school on conditional basis. This is ideal for those who have lower grades but are great applicants otherwise. Many schools will offer conditional admission and the student must keep their grade point average at a certain point to remain enrolled within the school. If you had a bad run in high school but feel you can improve in college, this may be a route to consider.

Plan your comeback –

It’s never too late to improve- the time is now to boost your academics and show that you’re making progress in a positive direction. Get extra help or a tutor if you’re still struggling and poor grades weren’t just in the past. Sure, you may not boost them enough to get into your top choice, but it will make a difference in whether or not you’re accepted to any school.

Play up your strengths –

Schools look at more than grades alone. They also want students who will enhance campus life and that participate in school and extracurricular activities. Think about your strengths: do you volunteer a lot? Play on several sports teams? All of these activities are important factors in addition to your grades, so make sure you detail all of your strengths, too!

Get recognized –

Perhaps your grades are poor in math but you’re the next Hemingway. Show off whatever talent you have by getting recognized outside of school. Get an article or poem published locally. Submit artwork in to a local show. Enter science competitions. No matter where your talent lies, there are ways to gain recognition academically to include on your application.

Make your essay epic –

If you have poor grades and a terrible essay, why even apply? There is absolutely no excuse to have a terrible essay, since you have time to work on it and have people around you that can help you edit, proofread and structure your wording!

Ace your college entrance exams –

To be fair, this is easier said than done. By “ace,” we mean prepare to the best of your ability through studying, utilizing practice questions, working with tutors (often times, you can get free help!) and taking preparation courses (either enroll, if you can afford it or find free preparation courses online).

Review your options with a counselor –

When in doubt, you can always go over strategies and options with a counselor, teacher or admissions officer. They’re there to help you throughout the process and want your application to reflect the “real” you.

Need money to pay for college?

Every semester, Fastweb helps thousands of students pay for school by matching them to scholarships, grants and awards for which they actually qualify. Sign up today to get started. You’ll find scholarships like the $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship from Niche, a scholarship open to all U.S. students and those planning on enrolling within 12 months.


3 Ways to Set Your College Application Apart

3 Ways to Set Your College Application Apart

By Tiffany Sorensen, Varsity Tutors’ Contributor

Take on these three tasks to help set your college application apart from the crowd.

Statistics reveal that college admissions officers are receiving more and more applications each year. Because of this trend, it is more imperative than ever to make your application stick out from all the rest.

This is how to avoid being just another name: perfect your application essay, try a new after-school activity, and attend a college interview.

Get details on the best ways you can approach these tasks below:

1. Write a solid, unique essay

How can you make your essay different from all the other thousands of essays that admissions officers read? And how can you avoid making it sound like just a list of your academic accomplishments?Many would agree that the most captivating essays are those with a unified theme or an extended metaphor—for example, nature, colors, travel, etc. A well-chosen theme or metaphor can tie your essay together while giving it a whimsical literary feel. In a sense, your essay should read somewhat like a story—it should have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

With your essay, you should aim to achieve two things: entertain college admissions officers and show them something special about yourself. The college application essay is not meant to solely showcase your many skills and endeavors; that is what your resume serves to do.

2. Step outside your comfort zone

If a stranger looked at your academic credentials, he or she might notice a pattern. A high grade in Calculus and involvement in the Math Honors Society indicate an affinity for mathematics. Volunteer work at a hospital and tutoring in biology suggest a student may want to study medicine.There is nothing wrong with demonstrating development or interest in one particular area. However, admissions counselors look for evidence of a well-rounded personality. You should participate in a range of activities that will stimulate and cultivate various aspects of life.

If you are only involved in activities related to science, why not join a theater group or an intramural sports team to mix things up? Instead of focusing merely on English, consider learning a foreign language or joining the debate team. Universities want students who have comprehensive knowledge and a broad outlook. One of the ways to achieve this is by stepping outside one’s comfort zone. Do what you excel in, but also branch out by trying something new and interesting. You will thank yourself later!

3. Impress at the college interview

One of the sure-fire ways to leave a great impression on admissions officers is by nailing the college interview. Given the abundance of paperwork that admissions officers must sort through, a dynamic in-person encounter can help make you a more memorable applicant. Admissions officers look for students who are enthusiastic, respectful, and knowledgeable about the university.Although a great interview cannot guarantee your acceptance to a school, it can have a positive effect on your application. A stellar interview can sometimes be enough to “tip the scale” in your favor if admissions officers are unsure about you.

On the other hand, coming across as impolite or apathetic during the interview can certainly work against you. Failing to attend or refusing a request for an interview can also diminish your odds of acceptance.

The college interview is a precious chance to be more than just another application. If possible, schedule a college interview and use it to your advantage. A remarkable personality can only give you bonus points. Just be sure to research the college beforehand!

By now, you should have noticed a motif: for an extraordinary application, you need to show off some personality. You can let your personality shine through with an imaginative essay, a distinctive extracurricular activity, and a private interview. To get noticed, you have to be bold and different!

Tiffany Sorensen is a professional tutor and contributing writer with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.

Need money to pay for college?

Every semester, Fastweb helps thousands of students pay for school by matching them to scholarships, grants and awards for which they actually qualify. Sign up today to get started. You’ll find scholarships like the $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship from Niche, a scholarship open to all U.S. students and those planning on enrolling within 12 months.


Timeline: Key Steps for Completing College Applications Successfully


Rising seniors should map out deadlines early to help them stay on track with their college applications.

Students should prep for college throughout high school, but for rising seniors time is limited. Applying to college can be stressful, but proper planning can help alleviate some of the pressure on students and their families.

Students can use the following timeline to map out their college application process. For a general timeline on when to apply for financial aid, students should refer to our college savings plan for 2014.

12:00 AM
June 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
June 30, 2014

Ask for Recommendation Letters

Students who want recommendation letters from their junior year teachers should reach out to them before the school year ends.

“It’s really ideal if you ask before the start of the summer because if you have a teacher who is on top of things he or she might actually write the letter over the summer, so you’ll have it when you come back to school in September,” says Elizabeth Heaton, senior director of educational consulting at College Coach.

12:00 AM
July 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
August 31, 2014

Start Test Prep

“As you’re putting your list of colleges together, you want to make sure you’re making note of the different testing requirements at each school,” Heaton says. Most schools accept either the ACT or SAT, but some institutions require additional testing or make standardized testing optional.

12:00 AM
August 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
August 31, 2014

Write Your College Essay

Application essays are one of the most daunting parts of the college application process, but students can get that part done during the summer. The Common Application has announced that essay prompts will remain the same for the 2014-2015 school year. The application will be available to students on Aug. 1. For schools that don’t use the Common App, Heaton says students can reach out to those institutions directly to ask about the prompts.

12:00 AM
August 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
October 30, 2014

Go On A College Tour

Summer can be a great opportunity for students to see schools on their application list. Many schools have programs and students on campus during the summer, so prospective students can still get a feel for campus culture and life.

12:00 AM
September 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
October 30, 2014

Take the SAT or ACT

Fall is the best time to retake the SAT or ACT because it allows students to get their scores ahead of early decision application deadlines.

12:00 AM
September 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
December 31, 2014

Search for Scholarships

It’s never too early to start searching for scholarships. Many national scholarships have fall deadlines, so if you haven’t started your search already, now is a good time to start.

12:00 AM
September 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
September 30, 2014

Create an Application Timeline

Heaton encourages students to map out their deadlines for the rest of the year. With school in session, managing time becomes more important, she says.

12:00 AM
January 1, 2015 — 12:00 AM
January 31, 2015

Fill Out the FAFSA

Everyone who is planning on attending school should fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The application is used to determine what loans students can receive and award applicants with need-based scholarships. Learn more about some of the most common FAFSA mistakes.

U.S. News Education

12:00 AM
January 1, 2015 — 12:00 AM
March 3, 2015

Apply for Summer Jobs

A summer job is a great way to build your resume and assist with some of your college expenses. Many summer jobs and internships start accepting applications for summer jobs in the beginning of a new year. Start searching now to hopefully have something secured by graduation.

12:00 AM
April 1, 2015 — 12:00 AM
May 1, 2015

Make Your College Decision

By now you’ve likely researched your top choices, gone on tours and analyzed your financial aid packages. The national response deadline for accepting a college is May 1.

12:00 AM
May 1, 2015 — 12:00 AM
May 31, 2015

Apply for Late Admissions to Schools if Necessary

Students who haven’t secured a spot at an institution still have hope. Some schools still have places open after the May 1 national response date, but space is limited.

12:00 AM
June 1, 2015 — 12:00 AM
August 31, 2015

Prepare for Freshman Year

From selecting dorms to negotiating financial aid, there’s a lot more to do after you’ve been admitted. Stay up-to-date on all of your paperwork, enjoy the summer and prepare for the new school year.

Images from iStockphoto and Getty
pic3Briana Boyington is an education Web producer at U.S. News. You can follow her on Twitter or email her at

5 Steps to Choose How Many College Applications to Send


Make sure you’re comfortable with the number of colleges on your list.

The magic number depends on how much you can spend and the selectivity of your intended major.


There are more than 1,000 four-year colleges in America. Most experts agree that it is important to submit college applications to several of them, but how many is “several”?

As with most things in life, the correct answer is individual. “Several” is the number that allows you to confidently enter application season. Here, then, is a five-step guide to choosing your magic number.

Step 1: Determine Your Admissions Budget

Before you begin to apply to colleges, take stock of your admissions-specific financial resources. Entrance exams like the ACT and SAT​ cost money, as do campus visits. Even the applications that you submit carry a fee. While this is a small amount relative to the tens of thousands that you might spend on tuition, it does add up quickly. How many schools can you afford to apply to, given your budget?

 Note that you are eligible for four college application fee waivers if you took the SAT or an SAT Subject Test with a fee waiver​. All Common Application schools accept fee waivers, but other colleges may not. Check a particular school’s policy here.

Step 2: Consider the Rarity of Your Intended Major

If you intend to major in a particularly narrow field, you may find that relatively few colleges offer such a concentration. For example, there are only a handful of schools with an undergraduate degree in astrobiology. If your major is rare, apply to those colleges that offer it – you may ultimately apply to fewer schools than a prospective English major, but that is perfectly acceptable.

A corollary to this step can be summed up in the following question: “How important are specialized university facilities to your career plans?” When I applied to college, I pictured a career spent studying particle physics, and having a functional particle collider on campus was one of my primary college decision criteria.

Almost every college in the U.S. offers a degree in physics, but fewer boast of particle colliders. Even more relevant to my search was the fact that many large state schools required science faculty to include undergraduates in their research activities. Some small schools offered that opportunity too, but their research facilities were sometimes limited.

Step 3: Gauge the Selectivity of Your Intended Major

If your prospective major is highly competitive, consider applying to a greater number of schools. This can help you ensure that you are admitted to at least one college in your program of choice. Many business and engineering concentrations, for instance, require an accessory admissions process that is often more rigorous than the one that the school as a whole uses.

There is no hard and fast rule for determining the number of competitive programs to apply to. The upper limit on applications will be dictated in part by your budget.

You can also speak with admissions officers to gain a sense of how competitive you will be for entry to a particular college or major. If you are set on a specific concentration, but your admissions portfolio is not ideal given the competitiveness of the major, you may want to apply to a larger number of schools – perhaps six to 10.

Step 4: Review Your Other Needs

Colleges vary widely in their culture, location, social environment and a host of other nonacademic features. Depending on your criteria, you may have a very short list of possibilities to work with – the Department of Education’s College Navigator lists exactly two private, nonprofit colleges located in rural settings in Alabama, for example.

Another important need involves finances. If your tuition budget is limited, it may be important to you to attend a public college in your state of residence. In some states, this requirement may present you with just two or three choices, naturally shaping the number of schools you will apply to.

Step 5: Ensure You Are Comfortable With Your Number

I would recommend a minimum of three applications: one target school, one stretch school and one safety school. Even if you are positive that just one college is perfect for you, it is well worth having a backup plan.

The more difficult problem lies in deciding your maximum number – in other words, how many is too many? Again, the goal is to feel as comfortable as possible as you begin to apply to schools. Ideally, you want to have several acceptance letters to choose from.

If your discussions with admissions counselors and your own research suggest that you are borderline for admittance, six or seven applications may be warranted. More are likely unnecessary – if seven of seven colleges turn you down for a competitive program, the eighth almost certainly would have as well.

Remember that there is a cost in time, money and stress when sending out applications. The key to success lies in striking a balance between the factors discussed above.

Brian Witte is a professional SAT tutor with Varsity Tutors. He earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington and holds a Ph.D. from Ohio State University.

Varsity Tutors is a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. The company’s end-to-end offerings also include mobile learning apps, online learning environments and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies. Got a question? Email


Campus Resources for International Students

Zhang Bo/iStockphoto

Life at a U.S. College


Beginning your college life in the United States can be a big adjustment. But chances are, your school has a variety of resources available to help ease your transition— academically, culturally, and socially. Here are some to check out.

International Student Office

Kenneth C. Zirkel/iStockphoto

Your school’s international student office (ISO) should be one of your first stops as you get acclimated to campus. Advisers there will be able to help you with visa and immigration issues, and can connect you with other school resources, too.

Your Professors


In the United States, professors often encourage interaction with their students. Don’t be afraid to participate in class and take advantage of your professors’ office hours. The one-on-one setting will allow you to ask questions or simply get to know your instructors.

Your Academic Adviser

Vyacheslav Shramko/iStockphoto

Many U.S. colleges allow students to register for elective courses to broaden their education, regardless of their majors. Meet with your academic adviser to ensure you stay on track to complete your major while pursuing your other academic interests.

The Counseling Center


It’s normal to experience feelings of stress, culture shock, and isolation as a new college student in the United States. But you don’t have to handle them alone. Take advantage of counseling services, a common resource used by American students.

The Writing Center

Arthur Carlo Franco/iStockphoto

Sure, you took the TOEFL, but writing in English still might seem tricky. Utilize your school’s writing center, where other students can help you perfect your grasp of English grammar, research paper structure, and more.

The Career Services Center


International students don’t typically have the same employment options as their domestic peers, but the career services center at your school should be able to help you determine what jobs or internships you are eligible for.

The Legal Services Center


Whether you run into legal trouble or are simply curious about U.S. laws, stop by your school’s legal services center. Officials there may be able to help you understand anything from immigration issues to underage drinking restrictions in the United States.

The Student Union

Josef Philipp/iStockphoto

One of the fastest ways to feel at home in a college community is to make new friends. Surround yourself with peers at the student union, a universal gathering spot for college kids. Try to branch out from students from your home country to get a feel for all that your new community has to offer.

Find On-Campus Support for International Students

An ombudsman is just one type of campus support often underutilized by international students.

Most U.S. colleges and universities offer academic and social support services to promote college success among international students.

An appealing and distinctive feature of U.S. higher education is student affairs. While universities abroad might offer housing and some administrative support, many, if not most, U.S. colleges and universities offer a broad range of academic and social support services to promote college success.

International students tend to underutilize such services, even though they don’t typically cost anything, as they are often already included in student tuition and fees. International students may not be aware that such services exist because they are not known or provided at institutions in their home countries.

Check with your university to see which of the following are offered on your campus.

1. Tutoring and writing help: There are a range of academic support services and workshops that students are welcome to attend, often at no cost. These might include individual or group tutoring and writing support.

A common challenge for international students is adapting to new academic expectations and standards, especially for those whose first language is not English.

As a professor, I’ve noticed that while many international students have thoughtful and interesting ideas, what they want to communicate might not translate well in a second language. In other cases, international students who are accustomed to being evaluated on rote memory might struggle with creative writing assignments.

Campus resources to help students might be found within offices called the writing center, student tutoring, academic success or another related term. Your institution may also offer ongoing workshops on time management, note-taking and other study skills and strategies, which also tend to be free unless noted otherwise.

2. Student activities: In addition to academic engagement, social engagement is also critical for college success. There are countless events and activities that provide opportunities to meet and develop relationships with domestic and other international students.

Activities might include cultural events or weeks, performances, sporting events and clubs and organizations that meet regularly. Most are free to join, while sporting events can be attended for low student pricing. Check your university calendar and student affairs websites for upcoming events and more detailed information.

3. Counseling services: Some international students may experience difficulties in their adjustment to a new country and different cultural environment. Others might feel isolated without access to family and friends back home.

Universities offer counseling for all students, including international students, in which challenges can be shared and kept confidential as long as there is no criminal activity involved.

4. Ombudsman: Universities also tend to have an ombudsman, to whom students can go to in order to resolve conflicts and report university incidents while maintaining confidentiality.

If you experience unfair treatment, such as discrimination, sexual harassment or other unfair practices, knowing there are advocates for your rights ensures safety and peace of mind.

5. Faculty members and teaching assistants: The best way to get to know professors is by asking questions in class and attending office hours. International students may feel intimidated or insecure, particularly if English is not their first language, but they play a central role for universities seeking to internationalize.

Most instructors tend to be understanding and sympathetic to the concerns of international students. During office hours, come prepared with specific questions, whether it be about the class material or clarification about the U.S. context. Students may also seek advice on how to succeed in class or college in general.

In my own experience as a professor, I have found that many international students tend to be quite shy and quiet in class but have much to offer in a friendlier environment where they don’t have to compete with other students for attention.

I have truly enjoyed getting to know them during class but especially during my office hours and after class. In many cases, roles reversed whereby my international students were my teachers, enlightening me about their respective cultures and how the class material might relate to their home countries.

The preceding are just a few of the many ways that universities can work for you, the student. Knowing there are abundant resources, staff, programs and activities to promote student engagement will help international students make the most out of the U.S. college experience.

Sometimes the countless options might feel daunting, but noting what you need to feel secure and succeed is the place to start so you can identify where to go for support. It’s out there, and there are people to help.

Jenny J. Lee is an associate professor at the Center for the Study of Higher Education at University of Arizona. Her research includes international student mobility and experiences.

Leaving home to attend college or graduate school is a big step—and leaving your home country can be even scarier. Want to study in the United States? Find out how to succeed from undergraduate and graduate international students, who offer advice based on their experiences pursuing business, engineering, computer science, math, and other majors at U.S. schools. Admissions officials and experts also weigh in with tips so you don’t get lost in translation. Got a question? E-mail



10 Ways U.S. Colleges Work to Support International Students

pic3Befriending teaching assistants is a good strategy for international students who want to better understand class material and professor expectations.

Studying in a new country can be stressful, so ask if U.S. colleges you’re considering have these ways to make the transition easier.

​Going to college is already a big transition in life, not to mention when it includes attending a college in a different country. While international students may be worrying about their new life in the States, most colleges have already got that covered, from academic to physical needs. There’s no need to panic.

Here are some of the types of aid and support that most U.S. colleges provide to international students, so ask the schools you’re considering which they offer.

1. International student advisers: Reporting to the international student service office is the first thing you should do when you arrive on campus. Every international student is assigned to an adviser.

They help you to maintain lawful immigration status and handle all your visa-related issues such as off-campus employment, changing major, financial deposit, traveling documents and more. Contact the international student service office at colleges you’re considering or where you’ve been admitted to learn more about how your advisers can help you.

2. college or major adviser: College and major advisers assist students on mapping out an academic plan. They can help you declare your major, register for classes and plan for your graduation. They also give valuable advice to help you reach your potentials. Visit them at least once a semester to ensure you are on track.

3. Student mentors: In many colleges, incoming freshmen are assigned to a student mentor from upper classes, and at some schools, international students are paired with an international student mentor. They have been in your shoes. They can help with things like learning English, arranging study groups, buying groceries and meeting new friends.

4. Academic support center: Not sure about your major? Your college’s academic center can help you find one. You can also get study tips and learn how to improve your study habits here. Schedule an appointment with your academic center to start your college life right.

5. International student clubs or council: There are various clubs at colleges for all interests. Colleges typically have at least one club especially dedicated to international students. Students share their cultures and celebrate different cultural festivals. There may also be a club for students from your home country. Check out a college’s student activity boards to learn more.

6. Gym access: Have you heard of the freshman 15, the weight many students gain during their first year of college​? I didn’t believe I would gain weight when people warned me at the beginning, but I have learned that lesson. The school gym is there for a reason. Go there regularly every week and you will thank me later. Getting good grades is important, but so is staying healthy. Students have free admission to the gym.

7. Meal plans: Grocery shopping is hard when you don’t have a car, and that happens to many international students. Meal plans are available in most colleges, and they are a good option if you don’t want to worry about grocery shopping or cooking. Check with your college’s dining service to learn more about the available on-campus dining options.

8. Teaching assistants: Teaching assistants, also referred to as TAs, should become your best friends in your classes, if your university has them. They know your professors very well. They know how the professors write the exams, and they may even be the ones who grade your exams.

Talk to the TAs if you struggle in class – they are there to help you. I had some really nice TAs who would help with my grammar and let me know where I should focus my study on.

9. International student classes: Some colleges offer classes or class sessions especially for international students to help them adapt to the U.S. college life. These classes teach about American cultures and college writing style, often by professors who are also from a different country or are really familiar with different cultures. At my college, there’s an American Heritage class session that is especially for international students.

10. On-campus employment: For international students who wish to earn some extra money to support themselves without worrying too much about visa restrictions, the on-campus career center would be a good place to visit. I have worked at several on-campus jobs and earned enough to pay my bills.

Going to college is exciting yet worrying. We have been there. I worried a lot before coming to the States, but I quickly adapted to the U.S. college life with different help from the school. It will be a wonderful learning and growing experience.



Infographic: International Students at U.S. Colleges

f1studentsSee how colleges and universities compare when it comes to admitting and funding international students.

Students from around the world who are looking to study in the U.S. can explore data on nearly 1,800 colleges and universities using the 2016 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings, released this month.

Traveling to the U.S. for college is becoming more popular, and at a few schools, international students make up around a third of the student body. At Soka University of America, 38 percent of students are international students, the most among National Liberal Arts Colleges. The Florida Institute of Technology topped the National Universities category with 33 percent of students hailing from outside the U.S.

The data also show that some colleges give generous financial aid awards to international students. Skidmore College, located in New York state, led the pack with an average award of $56,600 – an amount that exceeds the school’s reported 2015-2016 tuition and fees, which total $48,970.

Students interested in studying in the United States can view the graphic below for more information and follow the International Student Counsel blog for tips on everything from the application process to life after graduation.


Study: U.S. Sees Increase in Number of Students From Latin America

pic1The growth of targeted exchange programs, such as the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, for STEM students, has helped many more students from the region come to the U.S. to study.
More than 86,000 students from Latin America and the Caribbean came to the U.S. to study in 2014-2015.

A record number of students from around the world came to the U.S. to study last year. In all, the U.S. hosted 974,926 international students in the 2014-2015 school year – a 10 percent increase from the previous year, according to a report released today.

As in previous years, Asian nations were the top three countries of origin for U.S. international students.​ Chinese students alone made up 31 percent of all international students in the U.S.,​ according to the 2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, ​an annual survey from the Institute of International Education​ in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. India and South Korea rounded out the top three countries sending students to the U.S.

But the flow of international students from another region of the world stood out: Latin America​ and the Caribbean.

This region, which encompasses countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela, was the fastest-growing region of origin for international students in the U.S. in 2014-2015, according to the report.​

The number of students from Latin America and the Caribbean increased more than 19 percent​ from last year, to reach 86,378, nearly 9 percent of international students in the U.S.​ This growth was in part fueled by exchange initiatives spearheaded by both the U.S. and several Latin American governments, says Rajika Bhandari, IIE’s deputy vice president for research and evaluation.​

With these programs in place​, the number of students from Latin America and the Caribbean coming to the U.S. to study for shorter periods is rapidly increasing. There were 18,173 nondegree students from the region in 2014-2015, a 116.5 percent jump from 2013-2014.

One such initiative is 100,000 Strong in the Americas, a public-private partnership​. Backed by the U.S. Department of State, the grant program’s goal is to bring​ 100,000 students from elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere to the U.S. – and vice versa – by 2020.​

One grant awarded through this initiative supported a short-term study abroad program run by North Carolina State University—Raleigh​ ‘s crop science department.​ A dozen undergraduates traveled to Costa Rica for 10 days in March as part of a course on agriculture and food security, which allowed students to see firsthand how connected the U.S. and Latin American countries are.

“​When you travel to Central America and you spend time with local farmers there, you see that our fruit choices in the grocery store here are impacting their environment and their way of life there,” says Amber Beseli, a Ph.D. student​ in the crop science department at NC State who helped organize the Costa Rica program.

The Brazilian government also provides scholarships for science, technology, engineering and math students to study for a year at a U.S. college.​​ The Brazil Scientific Mobility Program has grown from 615 participating students to nearly 13,000 over the past four school years.

Brazil was the No. 6 country of origin​ overall for international students in the U.S. in 2014-2015. The number of Brazilian students increased 78 percent from last year, to a total of 23,675.

The University of Nebraska—Lincoln is a popular destination for students participating in the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program. They include students ​such as Edwin Duarte, an engineering​ student at ​Universidade Tuiuti do Paraná in Brazil, ​ who arrived at UNL in August. He lives on campus with a roommate from Omaha,​ and says he’s learned a lot about American culture in just a few months. “Everything is new,” he says. “Every single day you’ll learn something new.”

David Wilson, senior international officer and associate vice chancellor at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln,​ ​says the presence of such “engaged and engaging” Brazilian students on campus over the past several years spurred the university to offer​ a Portuguese language program, increase study abroad opportunities to Latin America and create more partnerships with universities in the region.

“To make it more likely that the world can solve the problems that challenge us, we need kids who understand all corners of the world,” and not just Europe, he says.

This fall, the University of Nebraska—Lincoln welcomed 116 Brazilian students to campus, he says.

The Open Doors report also shows that Latin American and Caribbean countries are increasingly popular destinations for U.S. students seeking a global education experience. Second only to Europe, which hosted 53 percent of U.S. students who went abroad, the region welcomed more than ​16 percent of all U.S. students studying abroad during the 2013-2014 school year, the most recent year for which data are available.​ ​Nearly 40 percent of the 22,181 students participating in non-credit work, internships and volunteering abroad did so in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Sydney Doe, a senior from Chicago studying biology with a minor in global health at Northwestern University, spent eight weeks over the summer studying public health in Cuba as part of a program supported by 100,000 Strong in the Americas.

“I think that Europe is pretty similar to the United States culturally and economically,” she says, so studying somewhere with more differences​ gives students more of an opportunity to grow. “They can expand their perspectives. I definitely did.”