WES Advisor Blog

Trusted Advice for Academic and Professional Success

50 Tips for International Students

Monday | August 26, 2019 | by WES Advisor

Are you thinking about continuing your education in the United States or Canada? You probably have a lot of questions! Well, we have a lot of answers for you—and they are all one click away.

We collected the best advice from our experts and all of the WES Advisor archives to put together the ultimate list of tips for international students. 

Maybe you just started planning your study abroad journey, or maybe you already immigrated and want to further your opportunities by going back to school. Either way, we can help you achieve those goals.

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Everything you need to succeed is here—read on!


PREPARING FOR YOUR JOURNEY

 

  1. Read the Three Keys to Success for International Students, according to a WES Ambassador who immigrated to the United States to get her doctorate.
  1. Get advice from others who made the journey before you. Read immigrant success stories for insights and moral support.
  1. Next, learn about the college application process. A strong application will give you the best chance of getting into the school of your dreams.
  1. An important part of the college application is your personal essay. Practice your English writing skills, ask a trusted acquaintance to proofread your work, and find out what admissions officers consider a quality essay.
  1. You might also need to pass a language proficiency exam. U.S. schools might accept the TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test. In Canada, you may need to take the IELTS, CAEL, or CELPIP test to prove proficiency in English. For French, you may need to take the TEF Canada or TEFaQ.
  1. Determine if you are ready to move away from home for several years to earn your degree. Many international students start out with a summer study abroad program.
  1. Another option is to choose a two-year community college instead of a four-year university. Here are a few reasons why you might choose this option, explained by a WES Ambassador who went through the process when she immigrated to the U.S.
  1. Once you are accepted into a program, you might be responsible for finding your own roommate. Learn about safe ways to meet roommates to make your experience in a new country more social, productive, and fun.
  1. Speaking of safety, you should stay alert for digital threats. International students may be targeted by hackers or become victims of online scams. Here are five cybersecurity tips.
  1. Another form of protection is health insurance. Many international students believe they will not qualify for health insurance in the United States, but that is not true. Learn about your options in this article.
  1. Of course, the big question is: Which school will you attend? Learn about your options with comprehensive guides to colleges and universities in the United States (and, for comparison, explore your options in Canada).
  1. Make sure you know about the visa process, such as the travel involved to attend your visa interview and what to do if your visa is denied.
  1. Prepare for your F-1 visa interview by bringing the correct forms and knowing what kinds of questions to expect, as well as how long it should take.
  1. Understand all of the fees involved with your student visa, and keep an eye out for updates because these prices—like all other visa policies—are subject to change.
  1. Make sure you know about the most common visa scams—and how to avoid them.

FINANCING YOUR STUDIES

 

    1. Any easy way to get started is by using the Scholarship Finder to help you find ways to pay for some—or all—of your tuition.
    1. You might also want to look into loans and other financial aid opportunities. No matter which you choose, don’t overpay for your education!
    1. Make sure you understand how interest rates and credit history work for international students in the United States.
    1. You can also find out what your financial aid options will be like in Canada.
    1. Once you have thoroughly researched your options, make sure you are in the best position to secure those opportunities by improving your standing as a candidate.

WILL YOU NEED A CREDENTIAL EVALUATION?

 

    1. First, learn why international students might need a credential evaluation.
    1. Next, get an idea of your potential GPA equivalency by using this free tool: iGPA Calculator.
    1. You can also see what the degree that you earned in another country would equal in the United States or Canada with the free Degree Equivalency Tool.
    1. Once you have used the tools listed above, you might have an idea of what kind of degree or program you need to pursue in North America. Then you will want to find out if your school needs a credential evaluation to demonstrate your previous academic standing.
    1. If you do need an organization like WES to provide your credential evaluation, you will know what kind of credential evaluation you might need—like a course-by-course or a “basic” evaluation. You can also contact your school to learn if they have a specific credential evaluation provider they prefer.
    1. Regardless of who you choose for your credential evaluation, make sure that the company is registered through NACES.
    1. Be sure to start your credential evaluation as early as possible, so that your school will get it in time to process it alongside your application.
    1. Proofread your credential evaluation application for accuracy and completeness before submitting it. Mistakes can cause delays in completing or sending your report.
    1. Include your reference number on all communications and envelopes you send to WES. You can find this in My Account.
    1. Learn about the required documents to complete your credential evaluation.
    1. If required, make sure to send your transcripts in a sealed envelope.
    1. If necessary, be sure to send translated documents to WES.
    1. Once you apply, download the WES App so that you can access your account from anywhere, anytime.
    1. Allow time for status updates. WES is a highly trusted credential evaluation provider, which means we receive a high volume of applications from around the world. Each set of documents is processed, reviewed, analyzed, and verified individually.
    1. When you have your credential evaluation complete, find out the best ways to highlight your credential evaluation GPA in the admissions process. You want to be sure that all of your previous accomplishments stand out!

ADJUSTING TO A NEW COUNTRY

 

    1. Learn how you can expand your comfort zone to make new friends in North America.
    1. You can also break out of your bubble by joining social clubs, playing on sports teams, and volunteering on campus or in your community!
    1. Here’s how to take the first steps to getting involved with extracurriculars at school. But, if you prefer something more regimented, you can also look for an on-campus job.
    1. However, if you do feel lonely or invisible, you should also know that you are not alone in these feelings. There are steps you can take to adjust, but it’s also okay if it takes you some time to adapt.
    1. Anticipate some of the steps you might go through as you embrace your new life. Ultimately, your way of thinking may change as you adapt to your new lifestyle, find things you like about it, and begin to get excited about the adventure ahead of you.

CAMPUS LIFE AS AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT

 

    1. Moving to a new country is already stressful enough! You can reduce your school stress by getting enough sleep, following a weekly schedule, and managing your finances. Learn more of these day-to-day tips here.
    1. If you do suffer from stress, that is okay too. Make sure that you have set realistic expectations for yourself. Balance work with fun. And always know that it is okay to ask for help from your resident adviser, your friends, your professors, and your school counselor if you feel like the stress of school is getting to be too much for you.
    1. Stay organized by using a planner, tracking your class syllabi carefully, and leaving your calendars open where you can see them easily (for example, an old-fashioned desk or wall calendar instead of buried somewhere on your phone, in an app).
    1. Your first year of college is likely to be the hardest—especially for an international student. Know that it might take extra dedication and focus to get good grades before you can enjoy yourself and relax, even if you were always a good student back home.
    1. Physical health is also important. Eating healthy and going to the gym are not always easy choices to make as a new student on a college campus with a meal plan—but you will feel much better and focus on your studies more easily if you do. These are also good routines to manage the rest of your time around to form good habits.

AFTER GRADUATION: WHAT COMES NEXT?

 

    1. After you complete your program of study, or earn your degree, you will have several options available to you. One thing you can do with an undergraduate degree is apply to graduate school in the United States.
    1. Based on your circumstances, you will need to find out if you can extend your visa while you take the GRE and apply for graduate school; otherwise, you might need to go back home and then reapply for a new visa to return to the U.S.
    1. If you would like to gain work experience in your field of study before going back home, you can apply for Optional Practical Training. Find out how to qualify, and check out the latest updates about this program, before you make plans involving this extension program.
    1. Then, of course, you will want to know about your long-term career opportunities after graduation. These will vary by individual and by field of study, but there are a few things you can expect—and plan for—if you have an idea of your area of interest.
    1. Finally, once you are considering ways to make the most of your education, consider becoming a WES Ambassador. You can share your immigration and study abroad experiences with others to help them navigate their own journeys as international students—just like you!
    2. Join our mission to eliminate global barriers:
      Help others by sharing these 50 Tips on Twitter!

      WES Advisor is an initiative of World Education Services, a non-profit organization with over 45 years of experience in international education. We provide advice and resources for international students and skilled immigrants to help them make informed decisions about education, employment, immigration, and integration opportunities in the U.S. and Canada.