5 Uncommon Tips for International Students

Inside the Admissions Office

5 Uncommon Tips for International Students

This article was originally written by Chason Dailey, a former Admissions Officer at the University of Chicago and writer for ChaseFuture.


As a first-generation college student turned admissions officer, I know first-hand that applying for and attending university is hard work. This extends far beyond the coursework. Much like there are study skills and job skills, students need “university skills” to make the most of applying for and attending a degree program. However, university skills are rarely talked about. I am incredibly honored to be writing for ChaseFuture, to provide international students with the tips, tricks, and university skills necessary to succeed. Here are five tips for international students that you have (probably) never seen before:

1. Find local alumni clubs and satellite campuses

Did you know the University of Chicago has a satellite campus in Beijing? Or alumni groups in Beijing and Shanghai? American universities boast global networks, and these networks are an excellent way to engage with a university. Attend a satellite campus public event to learn more about the research and academic culture of a school. Or, see if the local alumni network chapter does meet-and-greets with alumni for current or future students. These are phenomenal ways to learn more about the student experience at a university, especially if you are unable to visit campuses in the US before applying.

2. Disagree. Ask why. Formulate arguments.

Or, more broadly, learn about and practice American pedagogy and classroom culture. International students often say the classroom environment is much more casual than what they are used to, especially the interaction between students and professors. In addition, engagement with subject matter is much more dynamic. Rather than rote memorization, students are expected to think critically, ask questions, formulate theories, and even disagree with the assessments of their professors and classmates. Even the brightest students can find this jarring if unfamiliar. Prepare yourself by practicing these skills with your ChaseFuture mentor or others educated in an American university. You will feel much more confident and prepared when you first arrive on campus.

3. Find a book or article that perfectly discusses what you want to study. Now put it down and go read something else.

You may have heard about core requirements or great books programs while researching universities. Whatever the name, the central concept is similar: students spend the first part of their college tenure taking required courses that cover a wide range of topics and ideas outside of your intended major. Core programs introduce students to many new concepts, help them hone their critical inquiry skills, and aim to build more worldly and informed people. Broadening your own horizons at home will help prepare you (and get you excited) for this great part of the university experience.

4. Meet your new classmates early through the magic of social media

I began using social media to find my new classmates weeks before I matriculated. My friends had matriculated to their universities, and I was antsy and eager to do the same. It was a fantastic experience: we got to know each other, shared what we knew about the University of Chicago, and bonded over our frustrations about Chicago’s comparatively late start time. Many people even arranged meet-ups before college began. The night before I moved into the dorms, I met five people for a free concert, dinner, and some exploring downtown. On move-in day, I spent as much time saying “I know you!” as I did “nice to meet you.” Many people worry about making friends when they move on to college. Thanks to social media, you will have made those friends even before you leave home.

5. You may feel nervous – that's perfectly okay

Attending university is a seminal experience in someone’s life, both academically and socially. College not only demands that you grow as a scholar, but as a person. Many people are concerned about living on their own, making friends, and balancing intense workloads. These concerns may only intensify for students studying in a foreign country, and it can be hard to admit you’re nervous when everyone around you is congratulating you on your success. Allow yourself to feel nervous, and understand what may have you scared or anxious. You will feel better in the long run and have a better sense of how to handle challenges that come your way. And you are not alone: universities have a myriad of resources for international students to help them with the unexpected hurdles of transitioning to American collegiate life.