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Visiting US Universities as an International Student: What to Expect

For international students applying to US universities, it’s important to visit, if possible, and ensure that they’re the making the most of their time on campus when they do. There’s a lot that international students need to be mindful of when planning visits to US universities – both before and while they’re on campus.

Research Beforehand Is Important
Planning US university visits as an international student requires a lot of work beforehand, especially if you’re trying to fit multiple visits into one trip to the US. International families may be traveling great distances to visit US schools, so diligent research about location, the distance between schools, travel arrangements, and accommodations is key. It’s also important to do thorough research on the university itself so that you can come prepared with relevant questions and have an idea of the sites you want to visit that might not be part of the normal tour. Make a list of questions to ask during your visit and plan for other things like an overnight stay in a dorm if possible.

Register for the Information Session and Tour
What many families forget when planning university visits is to register for an information session. An information session is a meeting at the admissions office, usually led by a current admissions officer, where families will learn about the admissions process at that particular institution, what the university is looking for in applicants, and more. Then, after the session, families are taken on a guided walking tour of the campus. The information session also usually includes a question and answer portion, where students and parents can ask their questions and get answers directly from the admissions office. Information sessions are offered at different times, so it’s important to do your research and register for the information session well ahead of time.

Come prepared with questions, and see if you’re able to meet or get the contact information for the admissions reader for your area. Registering for the information session and tour will allow universities to see that you have visited – a key component of demonstrating interest. Establishing a line of communication with your application reader will also go a long way toward demonstrating your interest in the university and will give you a point of contact to direct any additional questions you might have once you return home.

Ask About Support for International Students
Many US colleges and universities have on-campus offices and resources for international students. While you’re on campus, ask if you can visit the international students’ office or if they have any additional information on the international community on campus. If you attend a university in the US you’ll be far from home, and might not be able to travel during breaks, so ask about other accommodations like housing for international students during long breaks and more.

Take Time to Explore The City or Community
While visiting the campus is important, so is exploring the surrounding community. After all, you won’t spend all of your time on campus. If you’ve never been to the US before, it’s a good idea to try to visit schools with varying sizes and locations, that way you can get a sense of a big school in a big city, a small school in a small community, and everything in between. Ask yourself if you see yourself settling into a new community. If you’re from a big city, a smaller town might seem boring – or it might be a welcome change of pace! Just make sure to take some time to get to know the area outside of the university.

If You Can’t Visit, Find Alternatives
For many international students, visiting US universities just isn’t feasible. We always encourage students to visit if they can, but if it’s just not possible, there are many alternatives that international students can explore to get to know a US university better (and demonstrate their interest!)

  • Virtual College Tours: Many universities offer virtual tours on their websites that allow students to see certain areas of the campus. Other websites like YouVisit also offer virtual college tours.
  • International College Fairs: There are a number of US university fairs offered in different parts of the world. If there’s a US college fair in your hometown – go to it! It’s a great opportunity to meet the admissions representative from your top-choice schools and learn about other US universities you might not have considered before.
  • Virtual College Fairs: Some sites, like CollegeWeekLive, offer virtual college fairs, where students can chat with admission reps from a number of colleges during a set date or time – or at their convenience. If a regular college fair isn’t available in your area, research virtual ones!
  • Admission Rep Visits: Admissions representatives travel the world to meet students, so there’s a good chance a rep from one of your top-choice universities might visit your school! Meet with your college counselor to find out when reps from certain universities might be visiting your school, and make sure to meet with them while they’re there.

The US university admissions process is very different than admission systems in other countries, so it’s important for international students considering US universities to understand what it means to apply as an international applicant and how that impacts how their application is read.

At IvyWise we work with students in over 40 different countries, helping them become scholars and leaders so that they can have the greatest chance of admission to their best-fit US colleges and universities. For more information on IvyWise’s college counseling services for international students, contact us today.