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Aspiring international student? 26 awesome tips to launch you to the future

Wouldn't it be great if you could go forward in time and see who you will be 5 years from now and how you got there? When making the decision to study in another country, the unknown is greater than the known. It is hard to know whether this huge financial investment will pay off and whether you will make an academic or private sector career that will maximize your potential.

"Back to the Future II Delorean rear (5134039427)" by The Conmunity - Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA

Since we can’t take you to the future, we will try to do something close. We are bringing you a collection of some of the best tips from top graduates of the best schools in the world, who are serving as mentors for future students on GradTrain. Take note – and learn from their experience. It is worth it!

26 Tips from great mentors from 13 countries

1. Connect with students from those schools you would like to go, and ask them all the things you would like to know to enhance your application.

2. Ensure that those who will write recommendation letters, know you well and like you... (and will write good things about you).

3. Study, study, study for the GRE, GMAT, etc.

4. Put passion into it... (they can tell)

5. Define your future ambitions, shortlist a set of schools, set up a to-do list and start preparing immediately!

6. Focus on what you want to achieve from college education and yes, you have to do this upfront. Get this clarity first because your college is very unlikely to give that clarity. 

7. Once you are clear what you want from the program and college, then start applying to only a handful of institutions that will provide you the platform to launch your career.

8. Think well about who you are, what you want from life, what do you want to do, how much you want to do it, and what are you ready to go through in order to achieve it.

9. Make sure to research the schools you are applying for closely. What are their acceptance rates, what are the main areas of study in your field, what types of facilities and career development programs does the school offer? And use answers to these questions in guiding your decisions in terms of which schools to apply to.

10. Try to find a place where you can find nobody to speak in your mother language. It will push you to learn English faster.
The best reference for you is previous graduates from your department who are currently enrolled in your target graduate program.

Costa Rica
11. If you are applying for a PhD program, review carefully all your potential advisors' profiles. Try to find a perfect match before applying.

12. The right university and program of study is an investment of time and money which will bear bountiful returns in career, networking and satisfaction.

13. You are more than just your grades - whenever possible, on your essay and statement for example, try to tell an interesting story. Let the admission commitee know why you're unlike the rest. With that being said, stay humble and simple.

14. Find an academic advisor/mentor for your PhD that you really really like; find a program you are passionate about; and choose a town/city that best suits your lifestyle, where you would enjoy every second of your stay while pursuing your grad degree. It's easier to get funded for PhD, than MSc.

15.Follow your dream. Be persistent and believe in yourself and in the future in front of you.

16. Before applying to grad school abroad, I recommend to work for as many years as you need to be sure about what is the job that will make you happy for the rest of your life.

17. Before applying, understand what you will be able to accomplish after completing the program.

18. Focus on what you want to achieve from college education and yes, you have to do this upfront. Get this clarity first because your college is very unlikely to give that clarity. Once you are clear what you want from the program and college, then start applying to only a handful of institutions that will provide you the platform to launch your career.

19. Take to GRE while you are in fourth year of your undergrad, and prepare a good research report/article.

United States
20. First Step:  Find scholarship money
Second Step:  Pick a University

21. Do extensive research about the school, the requirements for application, find an advisor from the school who can help you with the process and be aware of the grant opportunities available in your home country.

22. Be clear on what your end life objective is before you start applying

23. Show why they should pick you telling your story through your achievements, and not through a checklist of experiences.

24. Chose the right place. Do not be fooled by College rankings.

25. Talk to alumni from your target school to really understand if this is the right school for you.

26. Do the best you can. That's just enough.

Want to hear some more great tips and learn from the experience of people who are where you would like to be? You can find the people who provided the above tips on GradTrain. Check it out and be sure to add your tips in the comments below!

Latest stats on international students - on the up and up!

Up or down? What is happening with international students worldwide? According to the latest stats from the Institute of International Education (IIE) in their annual "Open Doors" report, the answer is quite clear - UP! 
More and more young people worldwide are going on the life-changing journey of studying in another country.

In this post, we will focus on the trend of international students traveling to the US - the largest destination for international students. Note that the trend is similar for the other global market in general. The upward trend is strong in other major study abroad destinations, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.

The growth trend is strong and getting stronger

The number of international students has more than doubled since the year 2000, and continues to grow. In 2013/2014, the number of international students in the US grew by 8.1%.  
Source: IIE Open Doors 2014

The countries that showed the largest growth in terms of students going to study abroad were Kuwait, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, China, Iran and Venezuela. 

Source: IIE Open Doors 2014

The gender gap is closing
In terms of gender - the gap is closing, with more and more females going abroad for studies. In 2013/2014, women comprised 44% of international students.
Source: IIE Open Doors 2014

International students contribute to the local economies
International students contribute significantly to the economies of the countries they are studying in. In the US alone, they contributed $27 billion to the local economy in 2013/2014.
The vast majority (81% for undergraduates and approximately %95 for graduate students) of the funding for the cost of living and tuition comes from the international students themselves. This is vastly different than for American students, where only 40% pay full tuition.

Source: IIE Open Doors 2014

What does the future hold?
All of the research indicates that the number of people worldwide who will move to other countries to enhance their education will continue to rise. At the current rate, the number will double itself once again by the year 2025.

Source: OECD and UNESCO data
To sum things up, the value of gaining international experiences, especially through international education is becoming more evident to more people worldwide. Even with the virtual technologies and MOOCs that enable people to take courses online, there is no viable replacement for the real-life experience of physically travelling to another country and immersing oneself in the local culture. 

Are you thinking of studying abroad? Not sure what path to take? Check out and talk to someone from a similar background to yours who is now studying abroad or has done so in recent years.

For the full data from the IIE Open Doors report, check out this link: