As an international student living overseas, applying to colleges in the United States can feel like a daunting experience. From large public universities in quaint college towns, to small liberal arts colleges to private urban institutions, the variety of American post-secondary options is dizzying. A campus visit is highly encouraged for students to assess fit and explore the many types of colleges and universities out there. On these visits, students can take tours and talk to admissions officers, meet current students, and ask questions about majors, special programs, and extracurricular activities. For American students, visiting colleges can already be an expensive experience with travel and accommodation costs. For international students, the expenses are even more extreme given the significant amount of travel time. So, what can international students do when campus visits aren’t an option?
Colleges can come to you! Many colleges and universities send admissions officers outside the United States to college fairs and even high school visits. Here are some things you can do to prepare for these events:
- Talk to your counselor or advisor about upcoming admissions visits or fairs at your school. If admissions officers are coming directly to your college counseling office, you can meet with them and ask questions to get to know the college. They will typically bring literature about the school to share with you. It’s also an opportunity for them to get to know you as well, so be prepared for your meeting. If there are any particular majors, programs, or extra-curricular activities that jumped out at you during your research, you can find out more during these meetings.
- Check the calendar of the International Association of College Admissions Counselors to see fair dates in your town. At these fairs, representatives from colleges man tables to answer questions from prospective students. You can stop by each table for a few minutes to chat with admissions officers or grab brochures; think of it like college speed-dating! You can get a quick snapshot of each college, so if you know there are schools that interest you, do your research beforehand online.
- There may be organizations in your country that coordinate college fairs for students interested in studying in the UK, Canada, and Australia, in addition to the US. The US Journal of Academics lists college fairs all over the world; IAES holds events all over Europe, South Asia and Africa; and IDP hosts fairs throughout India.
- Visit the website of your nearest US embassy or consulate, which may offer local college fairs in partnership with EducationUSA, the U.S. Department of State’s global network of student advising centers.
- International branches of US college alumni organizations often host events to encourage local students to apply to their alma mater. These programs often include admissions officers and professors, as well as guest speakers and performances. Search for alumni clubs online to learn more about these events.
Finally, don’t forget to connect with colleges and universities on social media. We live in a digital time, with tons of virtual access to tours, and information sessions. More and more schools now offer virtual open house livestreams where you can ask questions to admissions officers in real time. You can also find a lot of information on the YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook accounts of admissions offices, student representatives, and even specific academic programs.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways for you to conduct research on colleges and universities without leaving your hometown. As a former international student from Thailand, I wasn’t able to visit campuses before submitting my applications. Back then, we had only college fairs and high school visits, but today there are so many more opportunities for international students to learn about overseas institutions. So, start registering for fairs and visits, take full advantage of online resources, and enjoy getting to know your future colleges!