Admission process for international students vs. national students

Admission process for international students vs. national students

The pursuit of higher education is an exciting and life-changing endeavor for students around the world. Studying at a prestigious institution in the United States is a dream for many international students. However, the admission process for international students differs significantly from that of domestic students. In this blog, we will explore the various aspects that distinguish the admission process for international and domestic students in US universities. From application requirements to external agencies evaluating international transcripts, we will provide an in-depth analysis of both sides.

Application Requirements:

a) International Students:

  1. English Proficiency: One of the primary requirements for international students is to demonstrate their proficiency in the English language. Most US universities accept standardized English language proficiency tests such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). These tests evaluate a student’s ability to read, write, speak, and understand English.
  2. Transcripts and Credential Evaluation: International students must provide their academic transcripts from their previous educational institutions. These transcripts, which include grades and course descriptions, need to be translated into English if the original language is different. Additionally, these transcripts are often evaluated by external agencies, such as the World Education Services (WES) or Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE), to determine their equivalence to US educational standards. The evaluation process ensures that the international transcripts are accurately interpreted and understood by US universities.
  3. Standardized Tests: Alongside English language proficiency tests, international students are typically required to take standardized tests like the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or the American College Testing (ACT). These tests measure a student’s aptitude in critical reading, writing, and mathematics, and serve as an indicator of their preparedness for college-level studies.
  4. Visa Documentation: International students must obtain an appropriate student visa to study in the United States. The most common visa for academic study is the F-1 visa, which requires students to provide documentation of acceptance from a US university, proof of financial support, and a valid passport.

b) Domestic Students:

  1. Academic Transcripts: Domestic students must submit their high school or college transcripts, reflecting their academic performance and achievements. These transcripts provide universities with an overview of the courses taken, grades earned, and overall academic progression.
  2. Standardized Tests: Similar to international students, domestic students are also required to take standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT. These tests assess a student’s aptitude in critical reading, writing, and mathematics and help universities evaluate their readiness for college-level studies.
  3. English Proficiency: Domestic students are not typically required to demonstrate English language proficiency, as they have undergone primary and secondary education in English-speaking institutions. However, there may be exceptions for students who have completed their education in a non-English speaking country or who are non-native English speakers.
  4. Citizenship or Residency Documentation: Domestic students must provide proof of citizenship or residency status, such as a valid US passport or permanent resident card, to confirm their eligibility for domestic admission

Evaluation Process:

a) International Students:

  1. Holistic Evaluation: US universities often employ a holistic approach to evaluate international student applications. This means that various factors, including academic performance, standardized test scores, essays, recommendation letters, and extracurricular activities, are taken into consideration. Admissions officers assess these components collectively to gain a comprehensive understanding of the applicant’s potential, achievements, and personal qualities.
  2. External Transcript Evaluation: External transcript evaluation plays a crucial role in the admission process for international students in US universities. Two commonly recognized agencies that perform such evaluations are the World Education Services (WES) and the Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE). These agencies specialize in assessing and comparing international educational credentials to ensure consistency and transparency in the evaluation process. The evaluation process ensures that universities can make informed decisions regarding the applicant’s academic background and qualifications. 
  • World Education Services (WES): WES is a widely recognized and trusted organization that evaluates academic credentials from various countries worldwide. Their evaluation reports provide US universities with a standardized assessment of the international transcripts, helping admissions officers understand the academic achievements and qualifications of international applicants.
  • Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE): ECE is another reputable organization that offers evaluation services for international academic credentials. Their evaluations provide a comprehensive analysis of the international transcripts, ensuring that US universities can make informed decisions regarding the admissions process.

Application Process with WES and ECE:

a) Document Submission:

International students must create an account on the WES/ECE website and submit their academic transcripts, degree certificates, and other supporting documents. These documents need to be official, translated into English if necessary, and sent directly from the issuing institutions.

b) Document Verification:

WES/ECE verifies the authenticity of the submitted documents and ensures that they meet their requirements for evaluation. This includes confirming the issuing institution’s accreditation and the applicant’s identity.

c) Transcript Evaluation:

WES/ECE reviews the submitted documents and performs a comprehensive evaluation to determine the US equivalent of international education. They assess factors such as the educational system, grading scale, course credits, and program duration.

d) Evaluation Report:

Upon completion of the evaluation, WES/ECE provides an evaluation report to the applicant. This report outlines the academic credentials in terms of US educational standards, including the GPA, degree equivalency, and course-level recommendations.

e) Sending Evaluation Reports:

Applicants can request WES/ECE to send the evaluation reports directly to the US universities they are applying to. These reports serve as a standardized reference for admissions process officers to evaluate the academic qualifications of international students.

Both WES and ECE have established processes and criteria to ensure the accuracy and reliability of their evaluations. These evaluations provide US universities with a standardized reference point to assess the academic background and qualifications of international applicants, helping to create a fair and transparent admission process for international students.

  1. English Proficiency Evaluation: English language proficiency tests, such as TOEFL or IELTS, are used to evaluate an international student’s ability to succeed in an English-medium academic environment. The scores obtained in these tests, along with other components of the application, provide an indication of the student’s proficiency and readiness to engage in English-based coursework. It’s important to note that specific TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) requirements for admission to US universities can vary depending on the institution and program. However, we can provide you with a general overview of the average or common English language proficiency requirements that many US universities may expect from international applicants.


The TOEFL exam measures the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers. It consists of four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Each section is scored on a scale of 0 to 30, with a maximum total score of 120.

  1. Minimum Total Score: Many US universities typically require international applicants to achieve a minimum total TOEFL score ranging from 80 to 100. However, some highly selective institutions may have higher requirements.
  2. Sectional Scores: In addition to the total score, universities may also have minimum sectional score requirements. These sectional score requirements can vary, but a common guideline is as follows:
  • Reading: 20-25
  • Listening: 20-25
  • Speaking: 20-25
  • Writing: 20-25


The IELTS exam assesses the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers. It consists of four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Each section is scored on a scale of 0 to 9, and the scores are averaged to provide an overall band score.

  1. Minimum Overall Band Score: US universities often require international applicants to achieve a minimum overall band score ranging from 6.0 to 7.0 for undergraduate programs, and 6.5 to 7.5 for graduate programs. However, requirements can vary across institutions and programs.
  2. Sectional Scores: Some universities may also have minimum sectional score requirements for specific programs. While there is no specific conversion scale, a general guideline is as follows:
  • Listening: 6.0-7.0
  • Reading: 6.0-7.0
  • Writing: 6.0-7.0
  • Speaking: 6.0-7.0

It’s important to remember that these are general guidelines and the actual requirements may vary. Additionally, highly competitive universities or programs may have more stringent English language proficiency requirements. It is advisable to check the official websites of the universities and programs you are interested in for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding TOEFL and IELTS requirements.

Domestic Students:

  1. Similar Evaluation Criteria: Domestic students are evaluated using a similar holistic approach, considering academic performance, standardized test scores, essays, recommendation letters, and extracurricular activities. Admissions process officers review these components to gain insight into the student’s academic abilities, personal characteristics, leadership potential, and unique talents.
  2. Internal Transcript Evaluation: Domestic academic transcripts are evaluated by university admissions process offices themselves, as there are standardized systems in place for assessing the equivalency and quality of domestic credentials. Admissions officers analyze the rigor of coursework, GPA (Grade Point Average), class rank, and any specialized programs or honors achieved during high school or college education.

Read Also: How To Apply To An U.S University In 2023?

III. Financial Considerations:

 International Students:

  1. Tuition and Fees: International students are often charged higher tuition and fees compared to domestic students, as they do not qualify for in-state tuition rates. The cost of education for international students can vary significantly depending on the university, program, and location.
  2. Scholarships and Financial Aid: Many universities offer scholarships and financial aid opportunities specifically for international students to help offset the higher costs. These scholarships may be merit-based, need-based, or a combination of both. Additionally, external organizations, such as governments, foundations, or international bodies, may also provide financial assistance for international students pursuing education in the United States.
  3. Proof of Financial Support: International students must provide documented evidence of sufficient financial resources to cover their educational and living expenses during their stay in the United States. This includes demonstrating the ability to fund tuition fees, accommodation, meals, healthcare, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Domestic Students:

  1. In-State Tuition: Domestic students who are residents of the state in which the university is located are eligible for in-state tuition rates, which are generally lower than out-of-state or international rates. In-state tuition is typically available to students who have lived in the state for a specific period or meet residency requirements established by the university or state government.
  2. Scholarships and Financial Aid: Domestic students also have access to scholarships and financial aid opportunities provided by the university, state, and federal government to help alleviate the cost of education. Scholarships can be based on academic merit, financial need, or specific criteria such as community service or leadership. Financial aid provided by the government is called FAFSA (Free Application For Student Aid). The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a critical component of the financial aid process for domestic students applying to US universities. It is an application form used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal, state, and institutional financial aid programs. Here, we will delve into the key aspects of FAFSA, its significance, and how it benefits domestic students.
  3. Purpose of FAFSA: The primary purpose of the FAFSA is to assess a student’s financial need and determine the amount of financial aid they are eligible to receive. Financial aid can include grants, scholarships, work-study opportunities, and federal student loans. By completing the FAFSA, domestic students can access various sources of financial assistance to help offset the costs of their education.

FAFSA Application Process:

Completion and Submission:

  • Domestic students must complete the FAFSA form, which collects information about the student’s family income, assets, and household size. The application can be submitted online through the official FAFSA website ( using the student’s and their parents’ tax information from the previous year.

FAFSA Deadlines:

  • It is crucial to be aware of the FAFSA deadlines set by the federal government, as well as the specific deadlines established by the universities and states. Submitting the FAFSA by the priority deadline increases the chances of receiving the maximum amount of financial aid available.

Dependency Status:

  • The FAFSA also determines a student’s dependency status, which determines whether parental financial information is required. Dependent students typically include their parents’ financial details on the FAFSA, while independent students provide their own financial information.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC):

  • Upon completion of the FAFSA, a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is calculated. The EFC is a measure of the family’s ability to contribute to the student’s educational expenses and is used to determine the financial aid package. The lower the EFC, the greater the eligibility for need-based financial aid.

Financial Aid Determination:

  • Universities use the information provided on the FAFSA to evaluate a student’s financial need and determine the types and amounts of financial aid they are eligible to receive. Financial aid packages may include grants, scholarships, work-study opportunities, and federal student loans. The specific types and amounts of aid vary depending on the university’s resources, the student’s financial need, and other eligibility criteria.

State and Institutional Aid Programs:

  • In addition to federal aid, the FAFSA also serves as an application for state and institutional financial aid programs. Many states and universities use the FAFSA data to allocate their own financial aid funds. These programs may offer additional grants or scholarships that are specific to the state or institution.

Annual Renewal:

  • The FAFSA must be completed each year to remain eligible for financial aid. It is important for students to submit the FAFSA for each subsequent academic year to ensure they continue to receive financial aid based on their changing circumstances.

The admission process for international and domestic students in US universities encompasses several distinct requirements and considerations. While both groups undergo a holistic evaluation process, international students face additional steps such as English language proficiency tests and external evaluation of their academic transcripts. Financial considerations also differ, with international students often encountering higher tuition costs and additional documentation of financial support. By understanding these differences, prospective students can better navigate the admission process and make informed decisions about their educational journey in the United States.


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