The student news site of Adlai E. Stevenson High School


The student news site of Adlai E. Stevenson High School


The student news site of Adlai E. Stevenson High School


Degrees Across Seas

Students navigate overseas college application process


The bright glare of the computer screen stares at Darius Anta ’24 as they submit their application. Their office space feels even smaller than usual as their anticipation grows. After countless nights of reviewing their application, finding testing centers to take international admission exams, and consulting with friends living abroad, Anta has finally finished applying to colleges overseas. 

As both a U.S. and EU citizen, Anta is applying to schools in the United Kingdom, Italy, and the Netherlands alongside schools within America. Although the international application process has presented a unique set of obstacles, students such as Anta are optimistic about the opportunity to experience a college education overseas. 

“I like that studying overseas allows me to expand my horizons, especially since I want to study international business,” Anta said. “I think it’ll be a really cool experience because I’d be able to gain an education from a different lens than the American system.”

The Institute of International Education estimates that 10.9 percent of all undergraduate students have studied abroad. By joining this group of international students, Anta hopes to experience a more personal, academically attentive education.

According to Anta, European universities tend to have smaller class sizes and professors more focused on teaching as opposed to research. Beyond these differences, Anta has also noticed key differences in admissions criteria as they navigated the overseas application process.

“A lot of them have more structured selection criteria,” Anta said. “They are very transparent about how they select students.” 

Stevenson alumnus Sophie Golden agrees with Anta, believing the overseas application process was far more straightforward for Canadian universities. After applying to schools in Canada last year due to their significantly lower tuition costs, she now reflects on her application experience as a first year at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.

“For the programs I applied to, you didn’t have to upload letters of recommendation or write any essays,” Golden said. “For some schools, I didn’t even have to submit any extracurriculars. It’s literally just your grades.”

This admissions standard is not unique to just Anta and Golden’s applications. According to post-secondary counselor Sara English, many schools overseas do not employ the same process of holistic review that American universities tend to emphasize, focusing instead on an applicant’s academic potential.

“They don’t ask essay questions about your failures, or about a time that you were challenged,” English said. “Instead, they’re more honed in on what you’re looking to study.”

For Anta, this area of interest is international business. In applying to European institutions, they hope to gain access to more opportunities to take part in multinational events and network with organizations across the globe.

However, the overseas application process itself is not without its challenges. According to Anta, varying admissions criteria across different countries has made applying more difficult; while some schools required them to take additional standardized tests, others demanded SAT or AP scores, predicted grade transcripts, or even a photo of their passport. When applying to schools in Europe, Anta sometimes worked with translated versions of college application forms, having to navigate around unfamiliar terms and concepts.

“Every single country or every single school is going to have a different system,” Anta said. “You have to learn how to adapt to each one while also not wasting a ton of time on it because senior year is busy.”

Golden recalls experiencing similar difficulties during the Canadian college application process. Although Golden is a Canadian citizen, she nonetheless found that applying internationally from the U.S. presented its own disadvantages. 

“For Canadian schools, applying was actually really challenging,” Golden said. “The application itself was easier than American applications, but I didn’t have as much access to the resources that people applying to American schools had.”

Golden notes that resources offered by Stevenson’s College Career Center (CCC) for international applicants are limited, prompting her to look elsewhere for help. Instead of booking a CCC appointment during an off-period or dropping in mornings before school, Golden consulted a Canadian coaching company called Youthfully for application assistance. 

English explains that while the CCC has made attempts to accommodate the needs of overseas applicants, such as trying to register Stevenson as a testing site to administer international entrance exams, there has not been a sufficient demand among students to support these efforts. 

“Our knowledge is focused on the United States,” English said. “For students applying overseas, I tend to refer them to other resources and professional organizations that can help support them and provide information for us too. But we’re not quite the same level as it would be for United States admissions.” 

Nonetheless, many overseas applicants have ‌been able to find their own resources to help them navigate through the college application process. Believing that gathering information is crucial when applying overseas, Golden encourages prospective applicants to reach out to alumni for advice. 

“It could have been so much easier if I had someone who I knew—or even someone that I didn’t know—from Stevenson that went to McGill or the other schools I was looking at,” Golden said.

Similarly, Anta has conducted thorough research in preparation for college, emphasizing the importance of understanding a country’s culture and environment while simultaneously keeping an open mind. They believe that communicating with friends and family studying abroad has been integral in helping them and other overseas applicants navigate the process, detailing the collaborative nature of his college application experience.

“Ultimately, it’s about sharing information,” Anta said. “It’s about trying to find a community of people who are also trying to do the same thing as you and being like, ‘let’s get together and figure out how to do this successfully.’”

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