Online Education for International Students

Article by Clare Kaufman


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For international transfer students, integration into the U.S. university system brings challenges. Potential roadblocks include English proficiency requirements and an inability to transfer credits from an overseas school. Online education can help international students orient themselves in the U.S. system and accelerate their progress toward a degree.

International students can get a head start on their U.S. education by earning transfer credits. You can accelerate your progress to your U.S.degree by taking online education courses and proficiency exams.

For international transfer students, integration into the U.S. university system brings challenges. Potential roadblocks include English proficiency requirements and an inability to transfer credits from an overseas school. Online education can help international students orient themselves in the U.S. system and accelerate their progress toward a degree.

Preparing for University in the U.S.

International students may be vulnerable to academic difficulty, as they struggle to integrate into a new education system.

International Student Preparation

International students face potential obstacles transitioning from their native schooling to an entirely new system. While many international students boast a stronger math and science education than their U.S. counterparts, English and reading skills are likely to elude a non-native English speaker. Language difficulties and pedagogical differences can also make math and science education a challenge.

Any deficiency in preparation threatens to delay degree completion and increase the cost of university. U.S. universities generally require international students with foreign transcripts to take remedial courses before they can progress to the university curriculum. Remedial classes can extend time to degree completion to three years for associate's degrees and six years for bachelor's degrees.

Strategies to Help International Students Get Ahead

There are several ways to overcome the obstacles:

1. Pass Entrance Exams

International transfer students can demonstrate their abilities and skills by taking the following required and recommended tests.

SAT or ACT, TOEFL , IELTS or PTE.

In addition, many colleges and universities allow international students to satisfy remedial and even college-level requirements by demonstrating their proficiency in a specific subject area.

Remedial tests. Most schools administer remedial tests to assess basic writing and reading skills, mathematics, science, or foreign language proficiency. In addition, the College Board offers SAT subject tests in high school curriculum areas: literature, U.S. and world history, biology, chemistry, physics, foreign languages, and more.

Advanced Placement (AP) exams. The AP system assesses student proficiency in college-level subjects, allowing students to test out of basic degree requirements. AP exams cover 31 subjects ranging from U.S. history to Japanese language and culture.

High scores on these subject test series could instantly accelerate your progress to the university degree, saving you time and money.

2. Take Online Courses

Online courses offer international students another chance to start university ahead of the competition. An online degree program administered through a U.S. school provides prospective universities with a recognizable sign of your ability to perform in the U.S. higher education system. Online education is available in:

  • Remedial core subjects such as English and mathematics
  • Advanced placement subjects
  • Basic college courses
  • TOEFL preparation and English as a Second Language training

Online courses in these areas can help you test out of the remedial or lower-division university course requirements. Some schools offer transfer credits for courses taken through an accredited U.S. online degree program.

3. Talk to an Admissions Counselor

Admissions counselors at your prospective schools can help you determine your options for accelerating your education. Depending on school policy, transfer credits may be available for:

  • AP and remedial test scores
  • U.S. online degree program transcripts
  • International school transcripts.

For example, some schools offer "acceleration credits" for international students with a more advanced high school background in key areas.

Accreditation is an important factor in the transferability of credits, both from international and online domestic schools. Each U.S. college and university is accredited by a regional or national agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Although there are some international accrediting agencies, few international schools win recognition by U.S. institutions. The rate of transfer is low even among U.S. institutions, which may not recognize schools accredited by another agency. Ask admissions counselors about credit-transfer rules and keep accreditation in mind as you shop for online courses.

International students face an uphill battle in the transition into the U.S. higher education system. With a little planning and remote online education, you can arrive in the country academically ahead of your American peers.

By Clare Kaufman
Clare Kaufman is a freelance writer who covers education and business topics. She has a PhD in English and experience advising undergraduate students.

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