Advice from Admissions Experts on Strengthening Your Application

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Tuesday, September 27th, 2011 at 9:30 am

US News and World Report recently asked college admissions experts to answer the question: “What are some tips for international students to keep in mind and how are they evaluated compared to U.S. students?”  And they came away with  some useful advice for prospective international students on how to get accepted to U.S. schools.

The tips provided include:

- Look at lesser known schools so you are competing against fewer other international students for admission
- In your application, highlight what you bring to the school in terms of diversity and academic/extracurricular interests
- Do well on your TOEFL or IELTS

For more advice from admissions officers, also look at the New York Times “The Choice” blog. They recently did a series in which admissions experts answered questions submitted by readers.  None of the questions are specifically about international students, but they still provide some useful insights into what admissions officers may be looking for in your application.

American Culture: Out of the Movies and into Daily Reality

by Cristiana - Posts (3). Posted Monday, September 26th, 2011 at 9:35 am

While I was watching American shows and movies on Romanian television, the décor  around me became surprisingly similar to that on the screen. The small colored houses, with ducks and chicken raised in the backyards, were replaced by large, beige homes with perfectly cut grass, bird feeders and playful pets. The gray, block, low-rise buildings became taller, and the more I looked at them, the more they seemed like modern glass skyscrapers. Was I dreaming? When and how did this transformation happen?

One typical American experience - hanging out at the pool!

One typical American experience - hanging out at the pool!

The change began with the first waves of democracy and modernity in Romania after the 1989 Revolution. To my delight as a child, long Communist speeches were replaced by exciting Western shows, movies and cartoons.

Democracy brought freshness, self-expression, enthusiasm for exploration and unknown possibilities. Just starting school, I was strongly influenced by the country’s newly liberated and celebratory spirit.

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Meet Tara (Again), Graduate Student from China and Fashionista

by Tara - Posts (11). Posted Friday, September 23rd, 2011 at 9:23 am

On the red carpet of the Hollywood Reporter's Oscars party

On the red carpet!

Name: Tara Cheng (天天 is my Chinese name)

Home Country: China

School: University of Southern California

Year: Graduate Student, Class of 2012

Major: Communication

What’s one thing you like better about the US than your home country so far?

People give a better respect on privacy and individuality of others than Chinese do.

What’s one thing you like better about home than the US so far?

Restaurants in Beijing do not close until mid-night.

What one thing from home did you make sure to bring with you to the US?

Chinese accent! Lol I am kidding. My accent is fading day by day. I do not know; I was shocked by how much I was Americanized during the past one year.

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Meet Sebastian (Again), a Junior from Bolivia and a Kansas Jayhawk

by Sebastian - Posts (17). Posted Friday, September 23rd, 2011 at 8:28 am

The gorgeous Kansas City Plaza at nightName: Sebastian Sanchez Deuer

Home Country: Bolivia

School: University of Kansas

Year: Junior

Major: Economics

Why did you decide to study in the US?

I was motivated by the pursuit of quality higher education and the priceless experience of living abroad in a different environment.

What book, movie or TV show do you think most informed your opinion on what the US would be like? Was it accurate?

I would say my favorite show, Seinfeld. I guess it was somehow accurate, but it was more entertaining than that.

What one thing from home did you make sure to bring with you to the US?

My flag. Keeps me from forgetting where I come from and where I go.

What’s one thing (academic or not) that you’re really interested in besides your academic major?

Diversity promotion, I am very appealed by the idea that more people should learn about diversity, which I am learning on my own now, and above all tolerance and respect. With diversity I mean cultures, ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, religions, etc.

Meet Anna, a Russian Student at Mount Holyoke College

by Anna Malinovskaya - Posts (17). Posted Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 at 9:36 am

Anna MalinovskayaName: Anna

Home Country: Russia

School: Mount Holyoke College

Year: 2014

Major: Economics and International Relations

What three words do you think your friends would use to describe you? What three words would you use to describe you?

My friends would describe me as independent, ambitious and hard-working. I would describe myself as career-oriented, determined and patient.

What’s one thing (academic or not) that you’re really interested in besides your academic major?

Using different career resources that my school has to offer, learning new skills like computer software, and meeting interesting people who come to speak on my school’s campus.

What typical American thing are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to Halloween. We do celebrate Halloween in Russia but it’s not like real American Halloween.

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Meet Ryan, a Television Major from Indonesia

by Ryan - Posts (2). Posted Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 at 9:32 am

Ryan RinaldyName: Ryan Rinaldy

Home Country: Indonesia

School: Montgomery College

Year: Freshman

Major: Television

Why did you decide to study in the US?

My father was assigned to work in D.C. So I decided to move with my family and search for schools here. I’ve always wanted to study film in the U.S., too bad it’s expensive.

What one thing from home did you make sure to bring with you to the US?

I brought some of my favorite Indonesian books and movies. Oh, and also, I had to make sure that my Indonesian football (soccer) jersey and batik clothes were in my bag.

What typical American thing are you most looking forward to?

I’m really looking forward to learn about their sports like: football, hockey, basketball, etc.

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Meet Thuy, a Business Student from Vietnam

by Thuy Pham - Posts (6). Posted Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 at 9:24 am

Thuy PhamName: Thuy Pham

Home Country: Vietnam

School: California State University Fullerton

Year: Class of 2013

Major: MBA, International Business

Why did you decide to study in the US?

I have never been to US and what I perceived of the freedom of an American multinational culture (lifestyle, education, entertainments…) made me curious and challenged to explore it and integrate into it.

What’s one thing that you’re really interested in besides your academic major?

Business is my academic major for undergraduate and postgraduate (at this moment). I have worked in business for few years, but others find me non-business style when they get to know me more. Perhaps, I have another world – my feelings for the beauty. It is just speechless moment if I see an inspiring artwork, hear a beautiful melody or read a meaningful quote. I can’t tell how I understand about art because I believe that everyone of us has it in our blood, so I have my own art view: I am doing business. Business is an art. Thus, I am doing art.

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Meet Simba, a Zimbabwean at Oberlin College

by Simbarashe - Posts (7). Posted Monday, September 19th, 2011 at 11:26 am

Name: Simbarashe Runyowa (Simba)

Home Country: Zimbabwe

School: Oberlin College

Year: Freshman

Major: Undecided

Why did you decide to study in the US?

I decided to study in the US because of the diversity of options in the liberal arts curriculum. Because I was interested in a variety of fields and disciplines, I felt like a liberal arts education would be the best way to help me fully engage all of my intellectual interests and develop others that I may not have previously been exposed to or been aware of.

What book, movie or TV show do you think most informed your opinion on what the US would be like? Was it accurate?

I don’t think there was one particular source that influenced my perceptions of the US, but rather my perceptions were built from watching a number of television programs, movies and music videos. Many of the stereotypes I had have been reinforced, like the fact that Americans are very friendly and liberal, while others, like the myth that Americans eat burgers and fries all the time, have been debunked. While burgers and fries are of course delicious, daily consumption of these foods items is neither reasonable nor sustainable. This is one lesson I unfortunately had to learn from personal experience.

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It’s Time to Meet Our New Writers!

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Monday, September 19th, 2011 at 11:24 am

As promised, we have lots of new writers joining us this school year to tell you all about their lives as international students in the U.S.  And this week you’ll finally get to meet them!

I was able to get them all to answer a few questions about themselves (which are by turns funny, interesting and revealing), which we’ll be posting over the coming days.  So check the blog every day this week (and possibly next week too…) to meet one of the new writers – or to get reintroduced to a returning writer.

I think we are in for a great year!

Becoming the Facebook Generation: What Defines Us?

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Thursday, September 15th, 2011 at 9:42 am

Stories of the days that changed young lives

With the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks came the predictable flurry of “where were you when” stories – seemingly everyone has one, and with good reason. 9/11 was surely one of those defining events that changes the way people look at the world and at their fellow human beings.

And the decade anniversary got me thinking: sometime soon our generation is going to run the world, and the way we take on that challenge will be molded by the experiences we’ve been through. What will those experiences be? How are they different in different countries? And will they put us in a good position to be the world’s shepherds?

The What’s Your 9/11? project, which we ran along with our parent organization, the Voice of America, was created to explore exactly those questions. Our goal was to build a living database of the events shaping our generation, as seen through the eyes of those who experienced them.

We opened the question to young people across the globe, and received responses from Bolivia, Armenia, Pakistan, Australia and everywhere in between – every continent except Antarctica, in fact. And, unsurprisingly, they covered a wide range of experiences, which we plotted on this nifty timeline (zoom in or click the + signs to see more).

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International Student Orientations Around the World

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Schools around the world are welcoming international students to their campuses, and posting the photos on Flickr to prove it. Check out some international student orientations around the world, courtesy of this slideshow, showing image results for the search “international student orientation.”

It’s Rankings Season – Top Colleges in the US and the World

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Welcome to the fall. It’s not only the start of college classes, but also typically marks the release of major college rankings. As we’ve discussed before, rankings are controversial, and each methodology has strengths and weaknesses. Rather than make a big deal about each new ranking, we’re just going to link you to two of the most well-known, and let you use them as you see fit (or take some cues from the New York Times).

1) US News and World Report Best Colleges 2012
Winner: Harvard University, Princeton University (tied for #1)

2) QS World University Rankings 2011/12
Winner: Cambridge University (the top U.S. university was Harvard University at #2)

Also worth looking at: the Washington Monthly rankings released at the end of August, which aim to be “a different kind of college ranking” based on how much value the college creates. Their #1? The University of California – San Diego.

How 2 Weeks in San Francisco Made Memories and Inspiration

by Guest Post - Posts (71). Posted Monday, September 12th, 2011 at 9:28 am

Daranita is a student in Cambodia, where she is majoring in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and Business Management. This summer she came on a short exchange program to San Francisco to learn about entrepreneurship and innovation, and shares this story about her experience visiting some of the most famous companies in America.

Daranita in San Francisco

After three years in high school, and two years in university, I have realized that there is no limitation of choosing my path in life. Everyone is being brought to the world with unique talents, which for me include my strong determination to be part of development for the community where I was born and raised.

This summer, I was selected to go to San Francisco with a group of students from different universities in Cambodia for a program focused on creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, which fit with my major of Business Management and focused that determination.

The selection process was very tough because most of the students were from the top universities, but I was a shortlisted candidate last year, so I had a good chance for this year. The toughest thing for me was the visa interview with the U.S. Embassy, because we could encounter the failure anytime if we didn’t have enough documents for proof.

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Does 9/11 Hold Meaning for College Students?

by Sebastian - Posts (17). Posted Sunday, September 11th, 2011 at 4:07 pm

This September 11 marks ten years passed from a sad event that has had effects around the world. But how does it affect today’s college students? They were in elementary school at the time – too young for many to understand what had happened – and, among University of Kansas students at least, much of the real impact was far away in New York.

“Well, everything kind of died out quicker than I could really understand it,” says Maci Boe, a sophomore from Colorado at the University of Kansas who was nine at the time. “I noticed that patriotism was kicked up a lot but it took a while for me to understand why.” Afterwards, she says, her life went on as normal and nowadays she only thinks of the attacks when an anniversary approaches.

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On Vacation This Week, But…

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Monday, September 5th, 2011 at 8:10 am

We’re taking the week off this week, but we’ll be back next week ready to start the new school year, and hopefully with some new writers to introduce you to!

In the meantime, two quick announcements:
1) If you’re interested in writing for us this year, but haven’t sent in an application yet, now’s the time. Send your resume and a writing sample to jstahl [at] voanews [dot] com. You should either be currently studying in the US or applying to study in the US next year.

2) Please join us in a project marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and other events that have changed lives around the world. The What’s Your 9/11? project is creating a living archive of the events that will most define our generation, as seen through the eyes of the people who lived them.

Visit to see the stories submitted so far from young people all across the world. And consider sharing your own. Submit your story about the news event that most shaped YOUR life on the What’s Your 9/11? website, or using the form below.

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The Student Union is…

A place to hear stories about studying in the U.S. Our bloggers have come from all over the world to U.S. universities, and they'll be sharing their experiences, advice and more.

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Glossary of Confusing Words

Find definitions of confusing words and terms about studying in the U.S. in our Glossary of Confusing Words.

All the words were submitted by YOU, so visit the glossary to see the words that have been defined already and to suggest your own.