School Info for Your Kids: 10 Things You Should Know Before Applying to Study Abroad
Moving out of your childhood home and leaving the nest is just as stressful as the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), American College Testing (ACT), International Baccalaureate (IB), and Advanced Placement (AP) combined. Let’s walk through the steps from applying to attending to make sure everything is sorted out for the big day.
1. Spend a summer touring colleges.
When people tell you to listen to your gut feeling when you set foot on at your ideal college, they are right. There are just over 5,300 colleges in the United States alone, meaning that there is bound to be a perfect fit for everyone from small schools, to big schools and trade schools, to liberal arts schools. It would not hurt to spend a summer going on a college road trip abroad and touring schools that catch your eye; making sure to ask questions, having a meal at the cafeteria, and going inside its library. The family can even make a vacation out of it which makes for great bonding time. There are also local college fairs that invite college representatives to speak about their school, these are great resources because they are here to answer all of your questions without the hassle of visiting the school itself.
2. Reach out to alumni.
What better way to learn about your dream school than by asking someone who actually attended? There is only so much a school website or informational brochure can tell you. Alumni, on the other hand, can tell you if the food is good, what the dorms are like, and how the classes actually are. One thing to note is that everyone’s college experience is different, so take the advice you receive with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, their experience may or may not reflect yours.
3. Applications take time, so set a pace.
When it comes to the world of applications, the main thing to remember is that time is of the essence. For schools in the United States, deadlines start as early as November 1, so make sure you have taken all the standardized tests, submitted your test scores, and completed your essays. Schools in Canada, the U.K., Europe, and Australia have different requirements, so doing research on what each school needs is a must. The admission process is only as stressful as you make it, so early planning is your golden ticket to a worry-free application season.
4. Personal essays have to be personal.
Many people find writing their personal essay or statement is one of the hardest parts of the application process, but it truly does not have to be that difficult. This is the time for you to show your personality and share your story. College admission officers want to know about what makes you, you. A great tip for writing this part of your application is to have someone read it aloud and ask if they hear your voice—after all, it is about you. Remember to make it personal, but not too casual. Know the purpose is of a professional nature.
5. College is four years, not a lifetime. Pack accordingly.
A first-year dormitory is no Ritz-Carlton suite and space is limited. When you are packing your belongings or shopping for supplies, know that everything that you move in must move out with you at the end of the year. To minimize the hassle of moving out, only keep the essentials in your dorm. Quick suggestion: flags and photos make great decor and serve as a little piece of home.
6. Embrace change
Transition periods are hard but growth often happens when you least expect it. Moving to a new school, getting a new roommate, or being on your own for the first time are overwhelming especially when you are an international student because going home for the weekend isn’t really an option. The key thing to remember is, as you transition from home to university, your parents are also transitioning from seeing you every day to only seeing you during school holidays. Spread your wings, but know that you are always welcome back at the nest.
7. Making friends is not as hard as you think.
Orientation is full of small talk, ice breakers, and information that you will probably forget in a week or two. It is, however, a great time to meet your new classmates. Remember, everyone is on the same boat as you and a friendly smile could lead you to your college best friend. Being an international student is also a great conversation starter—people love learning about other cultures and countries.
8. Use all of the facilities and services your school has to offer.
When is the next time you are going to be surrounded by thousands of people your age, from different backgrounds, and have at least a thing or two in common? Go to the gym, the career fair, the professor's office hours, the library, and use those student discounts! Everything on campus is there to better you, and most of the time, all you have to do is show up.
9. College is all about balance.
One of the biggest challenges for international students is adapting to your new home, and one of the best ways to integrate yourself into your new community is by attending school events. The first few weeks of college are filled with school organization fairs, Greek life recruitment, club meetings, and so much more. It's fine not to attend every meeting or event and that it is also all right to spend a night in with your roommate. You can’t do everything and be everywhere at once. Know your priorities.
10. Things always have a way of working out in the end.
You only start college once. There is no need to be overly stressed about this process, so instead, try to make the most out of the time you have now.
To our parents, four years go by quickly and before you know it, you are walking the aisle at graduation or occupying the stands and cheering for your child.
Students, college is a privilege, so make the most out of it no matter how daunting the leap may seem at the moment. They aren’t called the best years of your life for nothing.