College Admission Advice for a New U.S. Resident

A foreign-born student with medical school ambitions gets advice on U.S. college admissions.
I am 18 years old. Last September, I moved to the U.S. from the Philippines. I went to college for two semesters in my country and majored in Communication Arts. Now I'm a permanent resident of the U.S. I'm taking a one-year cosmetology course with my mom so I can get a job as a stylist and save money for college. I ultimately want to go to med school. My IQ is average and the standard of education here is more advanced than in the Philippines, but I believe I can make it to an American college. What should I know about college admissions here?

First of all, I am so proud of you for being so dedicated and tenacious about your learning process, your current financial needs, and your long-term goals. You may want to look into some online courses you can take while working so that you can best prepare yourself for the science and math requirements in the pre-med curriculum. Any med school will respect that you have overcome some considerable challenges like learning and studying in a second language, negotiating the changes of living in a foreign country, and your unflinching commitment to your future.

I would also have a back-up plan in the medical field in the event that you aren't able to get into medical school. I want to encourage you to go for it, but it is always prudent to have a few alternatives. There are many opportunities in health care right now, including being a physician's assistant, a nurse, or a research technician.

College admissions officers will look at your ACT or SAT scores, your track record in high school, and your outside activities. You might want to get an ACT or SAT prep book and a guide to college study skills. I have co-authored a book, Keys to College Studying, which is designed to help you be really proficient at college-level learning, from reading to test-taking to critical thinking.

Good luck with your college and career pursuits. You have everything it takes to be successful. I hope you will write me again in a few months and let me know how you are doing.

Carol Carter is the author of many books on college and career planning. She is the cofounder of Lifeskills, Inc., a nonprofit organization that encourages high-school students to explore their goals, career options, and the real world through part-time work and internships. She also gives workshops around the country on career exploration and other issues directly related to helping students succeed in college, career, and life.

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