Colleges are like shoes. They look the same, but don’t fit the same.

By Maxine Seya

Is your student an international student? Colleges in the U.S. might look all the same to you, just with different names, locations, and sizes.

But like shoes, while they might all look the same in the store, they feel different when we wear them and even more different when we walk.

The details emerge when we start applying.

I’ve helped enough international students to recognize the varying policies of U.S. colleges that affect the international applicant’s finances, travel, and college lifestyle.

Here are 3 things international applicants should look out for when applying for college:

You might spend more than domestic applicants on application fees

It’s no secret that most colleges require an application fee from both domestic and international applicants. But did you know that international applicants are often asked to pay for an external transcript review that domestic students are exempt from?

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While many colleges have international admissions counselors that “translate” international transcripts showing different grading systems into something Americans would understand (say a 20-point grading scale in France to a 4.0 scale in the U.S.), many colleges would rather not bother with that.

So they ask international applicants to pay for an external transcript review from a third-party website like NACES, National Association of Credential Evaluation Services. These companies verify the authenticity of the international transcripts and often provide a rough translation of the original grades into a 4.0 GPA scale used in the U.S.

This can cost between $185 to $385 per high school transcript.

What does this mean? If you’re on a low budget, targeting schools that offer in-house, free international transcript verification can help you stay within budget — and save those funds for the high international tuition.

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You might be strictly required to be on-campus by a certain date.

Because of potential visa and travel delays, some colleges require international students to be on-campus by a certain date. While the first day of fall semester might not start until September 5, for example, an international student might be asked to arrive by August 18.

Smaller colleges like Concordia, for example, may not admit international students who cannot make it to campus by the required date.

If planning well in advance,

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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.