How should expat applicants approach the admissions process?

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Our counselors answered:

How should expat applicants approach the admissions process?

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

With Pride!

If you are an American expat attending school abroad -- you are LUCKY! What a wonderful experience to live and grow up in a foreign country. If you are lucky enough to attend an American or international school -- I'm sure you have friends from ALL OVER THE WORLD. That experience is absolutely priceless! When it comes to college admissions, make sure that you make it clear that you bring something special to the table! You bring a great global perspective, and you certainly bring a wealth of information and experiences that can't be duplicated in the U.S. Many college admissions officer appreciate the unique perspectives that expats can bring to their campuses. Are you worried about the lack of AP courses at your school? No problem. Colleges (even selective ones) look at whether or not the student has made good use of their school's resources and has challenged herself. They won't punish the student if his school doesn't happen to offer a gazillion APs! By the way, if you attend an IB school and are taking IB coursework, you get all of the benefits of AP students -- and in some instances, college credit. Colleges are familiar with the IB program -- which is growing in popularity in American high schools as well!

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Global Nomads

If you mean U.S. citizens who live abroad as expats then I would say that you approach the application process as a U.S. citizen would. Then, illustrate your story in your essay. Transition is a different story--when you return to school in the U.S., you will most likely have a transition period similar to that of a purely international student.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

How should expat applicants approach the admissions process?

An expat need not do a whole lot different from a residential applicant other than perhaps be able to explain why they seek to return to the U.S. for college, but in its own way that is no different from the many students who must be able to articulate why they want to go to the school to which they are applying. The rests of it is fundamentally the same, with the expat having a distinctive story to tell and much offer to an admissions office seeking to putting together a full blown diverse community. Admittedly, the expat’s record was compiled in a different venue but understanding that and putting it in a proper context are standard parts of the admissions process.

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

How should expat applicants approach the admissions process?

In most cases, expat applicants should approach the admissions process in the same way as domestic students. Some additional aspects to consider: - If you have dual citizenship, U.S. and something else, it will generally be to your advantage financially to apply to U.S. institutions as a U.S. citizen. You will have access to U.S. financial aid through FAFSA, and some institutional scholarships are available only to U.S. citizens. Financial aid to international students is often limited. - Ensure that the schools to which you apply also receive profiles of the high schools you have attended overseas and that the grading systems of those high schools are made clear in the supporting materials. - Your experiences in living overseas will provide potentially interesting input into the essays you submit. Unique essays capture the attention of admissions office readers. Realize that part of YOUR uniqueness is your international experience. This will also be true of students who have lived in various parts of the world as a result of the military stationings of their parents.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

How should expat applicants approach the admissions process?

It's really the parents who are & I've had several. The student applies as if they were living in the US, and when financial aid time comes, an experienced person's services are highly desired. Please note, the further away they live, the more of a travel allowance can be requested & rec'd in the appeals process.

Hamilton Gregg
Educational Consultant Private Practice

How should expat applicants approach the admissions process?

Pretty much the same way students back in the States approach the college admission process. Expats are at a bit of a disadvantage in that visiting schools is more challenging. But university and college reps do get around. It is important to meet them and their contact information. If you an visit over the holidays or during summer vacation, do so. Visiting schools is important. Expats bring much to a schools campus. While the Third Culture Kid experience is not what it used to be since there are some many know, it is important to be able to talk about the rich experiences you have had living overseas. How has that impacted you, your family and your education? How has that diverse perspective changed and challenged you? How have you grown as a person? Did you want to live overseas and if not, how have you met that challenge? You may be limited in the tests you take, the courses your school offers and other challenges. But each of these can add to your experience living overseas and enriched you as a person. Have you learned the local language, what is your community (housing, school, neighborhood) like? How have you dealt with the cultural differences? Since I have worked overseas for much of my career, I find that a lot of students take for granted what they experience. It becomes "known" yet it is extremely different from what students back home are experiencing. So while the application process is very much the same, you have the ability to expound on the richness of your "expatness".

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

How should expat applicants approach the admissions process?

The admission process for expat applicants who are US citizens is the same but it is important to allow yourself more time. Make a point of visiting colleges each time you are in the US, as early as 9th grade. Check the standardized testing schedules well in advance as they tend to be more limited than domestic options. Start the discussion with your high school early as they may or may not be used to processing applications for the US. Try to spend at least some time in the summers in the US to get to know the culture.

Mark Gathercole
University Advisor Independent University Advising

How should expat applicants approach the admissions process?

You approach the admissions process in the same way everyone else does. Living abroad doesn't make the process different for you, but if you've taken advantage of being overseas, you will have a rich collection of experiences to offer colleges, and to share with them on your applications.