Today’s Ask Test Masters question comes from a reader in Colombia who writes:
Hi! I read your post (and it is extremely helpful by the way) but when I was reading the “Grades” section I came across a question: What can I do if my school doesn’t offer any AP or IB classes? I am from Colombia and our school system works differently from the schools in U.S, do you know anything about applying as an international student?
For the first question, Ivy League and similarly competitive schools will not penalize you for not taking AP classes if your school doesn’t offer them; these schools consider applicants in terms of how they utilized available resources. This means if your school offers a variety of AP/IB classes, you’re expected to take a good number of them to challenge yourself, but if your school does not offer any AP/IB classes, you won’t be at any disadvantage for not taking any (because it’s hard to take classes your school doesn’t offer, after all). However, this means that you absolutely must crush the SAT/ACT and Subject Tests to prove to schools that you are up to the challenge of a rigorous curriculum. If you are especially motivated, and you feel you are up to the challenge, you might also consider enrolling in a local community college or junior college while still a high school student. You can do this over the summer so you’re not juggling your regular school work and extracurriculars; if AP classes are not available to you, this option can demonstrate an ability to take and excel in classes at the college level.
As for applying as an international student, the process is no different from a domestic one! You may have to take the TOEFL in addition to the SAT/ACT to demonstrate English proficiency, and you may not be eligible for certain institutional grants or federal loans, but otherwise, the process is the same. Check with the individual schools you intend to apply to for their specifics on the TOEFL or additional requirements, but in general, the process is still completed through the normal Common Application.
Hope this helps, and best of luck during the application process!