Top 5 Mistakes International College Applicants Make

Applying to attend college at a university overseas is truly an admirable endeavor. I never could have handled university in China when I was only eighteen years old, so you’re definitely cool in my book. Part of the reason it’s so admirable though, is that applying is difficult!

However, you can make the best of your application by avoiding the same mistakes that international applicants from all over the world make. Here are the top-five most common mistakes that students make when applying to universities overseas.

No. 1 – Not paying attention to local spellings

Everybody knows that in the UK, “color” is spelled “colour.” But guess what, if you’re applying to an American school and you use the world “colour” in your essays, it’s not just a funny coincidence – it’s a mistake. Admissions committee members will assuredly put a big fat X mark on your application for a mistake like that. Same goes in the UK as well. Make sure you’ve got your chemists, pharmacies, elevators and lifts all straightened out before applying.

No. 2 – Writing the wrong university name

You wouldn’t believe how commonly this mistake pops up. Especially among international students who send out applications to as many as fifteen schools, it’s easy to copy and paste an essay into one application with the wrong university name. Trust me, telling Cambridge that a degree from Stanford will be an invaluable asset to your career won’t earn you any points in the admissions office.

No. 3 – Sending unnecessary application materials

Recently I was having dinner with admissions representatives from three top-ranked US schools, and they had a great laugh asking me one question: “Why do Chinese students send so many goofy certificates?!” If the applications instructions don’t ask you to send something, don’t send it. Nobody cares about your awards for good attendance or being class monitor. They have no value outside of your high school. And please, please, please don’t send a resume. It’s not a job application, it’s a college application.

No. 4 – Believing what you read on the internet

“You have to send a PS! It’s a requirement for every school!”

“Admissions office computers always shut down a week before the deadline, don’t even bother sending your application in!”

I’ve heard some of the craziest rumors about the mystical application process at overseas universities. Trust me, the only advice you should be following comes from the website of the university you’re applying to, or a knowledgeable counselor with experience in university admissions.

No. 5 – Listening to counselors who’ve never left their country

If I wanted to apply to Beijing University for graduate school, the last person I’d ask for help would be a goofy American with poor Chinese skills who has never left America. So if you’re applying to Australia, Canada or otherwise, why would you ask for help from someone who’s never even left his own province, let alone China?

Avoid those five mistakes and I promise you’ll already be five steps further than 90% of the students that apply to universities overseas.

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