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Choosing a university and navigating the application process can be daunting for international students. But many people are willing to share their experiences and make the application process go more smoothly.
We spoke with Georges Macheta, Duolingo English Test student adviser and Schulze innovation scholar, about how international students can best prepare when applying to university. Here are his top tips for the application process.
Find a starting point
“Applying to more colleges can impact the quality of your applications because time is scarce,” Macheta says. To focus your applications, look at the options offered by institutions and decide what your priorities are.
Factors such as size, scholarships and location can help you create a manageable shortlist. “I’m in a small college now and I love it. We have small classes and personal attention,” Macheta says.
Research and reach out
Once you’ve decided where you’d like to study, dig deeper and don’t be afraid to contact people at the institution for advice.
“There are so many free resources and places to find reviews from students. Watch campus virtual tours and ask whether you see yourself at that place,” Macheta says. “Email a student there or a professor. They’ll gladly talk to you. If someone talks to me, I love to give them my experience.
“This research is going to eventually help in all other aspects of the application, including writing the supplemental essays specific to the college. Choose the place that you see yourself thriving in. That’s going to translate to the admission essay and that will translate to the admissions officer, who’ll see your excitement.”
Make your personal statement personal
The application process works both ways – admission officers need to know that their university is right for you.
“The goal for the admissions officer is to see how you’re going to fit in. Applicants must show their personality in their application. They might change or hide parts of their personality because they think it’s going to get them in, but there is a reason why admission officers pick certain essays. Be your authentic self. If you’re accepted, you’ll feel more confident that the university is a good match for you. If you’re not accepted, you’ll have a good indication that it wasn’t the right fit. The authenticity is not just for them; it’s for you, too,” Macheta says.
Find the English-language test for you
International students will need to show that they can meet their institution’s English-language requirements. There are many testing options out there, with different approaches, prices and durations. The Duolingo English Test is available to take online, offers free practice tests and is accepted by more than 4,000 colleges worldwide.
“I found English certification tests were assessing my test strategy rather than my English language skills. The Duolingo English Test just tests my English,” Macheta says. “The way to improve that is to develop what I have, not what the test wants me to have. It’s really a game changer for students who want to apply abroad. I genuinely love it because it helped me in my application process, and I’ve seen how it’s helping friends. It’s such a cost-effective test and it’s easy to take it multiple times.”
Look beyond academia
When choosing an institution, its academic offering shouldn’t be the only consideration. Make sure it matches your interests beyond the classroom.
“The main goal of university is to get an education, but it’s not all about the end result – it’s about the journey. It’s a very different experience when you go somewhere that you enjoy. Look at what clubs are on offer before you apply and be prepared to engage in as many new experiences as possible,” Macheta says.
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