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A guide to international qualifications for college entry

Are your children studying overseas? If so, and if they ultimately want to go on to American colleges or universities, you’ll need to make sure they have the right qualifications to do so. Qualifications gained in foreign countries may not make the grade because there are simply too many different ones for US institutions to be able to judge their value fairly. There are, however, several types of international qualifications designed to help in this situation.

The Scholastic Assessment Test

The Scholastic Assessment Test, better known as the SAT, is required by most colleges. Some international schools offer it as standard and others can arrange it specially, though in some cases you will need to arrange extra tuition to ensure that your child has covered all the relevant material. Taking the SAT makes applying to colleges a lot simpler and a good grade can make a better impression for a foreign student than a domestic one, because colleges are aware that this means other material will have been studied as well.

The Test of English as a foreign language

If your child is not US-born or has been studying for some time in a country where most people don’t speak English, a TOEFL qualification may be helpful to reassure colleges that language won’t present a problem when it comes to study. It isn’t usually a strict requirement however.

The American College Test (ACT)

Although not every college requires it, taking the ACT is a useful way to demonstrate the aptitude and critical thinking expected of students who have had a good American education. It’s a particularly good idea for children to take it if they want to major in a science or engineering subject, as it has a science section not covered by the SAT. Students can register online and it’s available through test centers around the world.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBD)

A two-year program designed for students aged between 16 and 18, the IBD is the system used by Hong Kong international schools. It’s designed around standards set in Switzerland and is respected by universities all around the world, including in the US. As well as signifying academic ability, it’s designed to show that children have achieved a noteworthy degree of personal development.

The Advanced Placement Program (AP)

Students who are excelling at school and want to give themselves an extra boost when it comes to making college applications might wish to consider the AP program, an opportunity to take university level courses that are recognized by institutions all around the world. Over 1,000 schools participate in the program, however, you should be aware that there are significant differences in how it’s run in China and India.

Getting an internationally recognized qualification doesn’t just help with access to American institutions but gives young people much broader options. It’s seen as an indicator that a student will contribute to the sort of rich life experience every college and university provides. Solid qualifications indicate that students will have a lot to contribute on campus, so they are a great way to improve the chance of admission.