Studying in the USA – A viable option?

Although US tuition fees are some of the highest in the world, ($20,000-$60,000 annually), – it’s not quite the insurmountable hurdle you’d imagine. There are ways to afford the fees.

Most US colleges have to raise funds through charitable donations from current and past students, as well as large corporations and government subsidies. Many therefore, have large endowment funds and can offer financial aid to international applicants. There isn’t an over-arching organization governing these scholarships, but there are many web sites with information, and individual college web sites give details on what they offer. (The term “bursaries” is rarely used by US colleges.)

The US education and college “app” (application) system is very different from what many international students may be used to. Experts advise international students to allow 18-24 months working back from the date they want to start college. Although it seems like a lot of time, applicants need to-

Research the colleges that might suit them. (I strongly advise widening the net and looking at more than just the well-known Harvard/Yale/MIT options). There is no over-arching body such as the UK’s UCAS so students must wade through individual college web sites.

  • Look for financial aid, if needed. As mentioned, it is out there but finding it and submitting the paperwork adds a considerable amount of time and effort.
  • Take the standardized test (ACT or SAT) that most colleges require of international students. This is a timed, multiple-choice test and is quite different from anything British students are used to. British applicants compete against American high schoolers who have been practicing these tests for months, so test prep is a must.
  • Have test scores sent to the colleges they are applying to, which can take a month or more.
  • Have high school information sent to colleges. Teachers are asked for fairly in-depth reports* on applicants and some US colleges require applicants to use a Credential Evaluation service to compare foreign academic scores.
  • Have financial (ie. bank) information sent to colleges to prove ability to pay for the first year. (This would include any scholarships that are awarded.)
  • Fill out the application form(s). This takes more time than most foreign students realize. Most colleges require at least two personal essays, which should be proofed by at least one other person. Students are selling themselves to colleges so this essay cannot be rushed off in one draft.
  • Apply for a visa. Students can only apply for a US student visa once they have finally committed to one college. This college initiates the paperwork for the visa request so students holding multiple offers cannot proceed until they make a decision.
  • Apply for housing, send in doctor’s form etc. Once a student has a confirmed place at a US college there are many steps to complete before being able to attend. Choose and pay for housing, submit physical reports from the local doctor, register for classes and, in most cases, attend the International orientation session.

*Because of the amount of input required from teachers and other school staff, I strongly suggest that students with “sketchy” relationships start mending some fences, pronto!

It can be daunting to even consider applying to a US college, and expensive if you feel the need to hire a consultant. However, with sufficient time, it is possible for students (and their families) to undertake the whole process themselves.

Stress-Free-Guide-to-Studying-in-the-StatesTo help international applicants manage the US application process (including deciding whether it’s even feasible in the first place), I have written ‘The Stress-Free Guide to Studying in the States; A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students’, which also has a Facebook page for questions and further information.

Review of Douglas Ota’s Safe Passage


This book holds wisdom not only for international schools, but for all organizations that assist families with international transitions. Doug’s well-balanced advice and structured guidelines are applicable across countries. I would recommend this book to anyone involved in education or counseling of globally-mobile families, or anyone with children impacted by mobility.


Ten Things Every Global Nomad Needs to Know Before Leaving for University

The transition to college or university is a tough one. It’s tough for students who have grown up in the same culture all of their lives. How much more so for the global nomad/ third culture kid (TCK) who has been exposed to many cultural traditions while growing up? This double transition needs to be taken seriously. Here are ten things to keep in mind when making your college transition:

  1. Understand what it means to be a global nomad / third culture kid (TCK). Your international lifestyle has impacted you in more ways than you can imagine. You have reaped many benefits from your cross-cultural, highly mobile childhood and have or will face many challenges too.
  2. At some point you will have an ‘encounter experience’ which is when you are woken up to the fact that you are different from your more traditional domestic peers. It is not you, as a person, who is different, but your life experiences that make you different. This encounter experience commonly takes place upon repatriation, often times for college/ university. Learning to live positively with those differences will help you to thrive in your new setting.
  3. Everyone goes through an adjustment when they arrive at their college or university. TCKs have the added burden of having to adjust to a new culture too, for their home culture will be foreign to them in many respects. Everyone will experience the same emotional ups and downs, insecurities and fears. You are not alone in that respect. Don’t be fooled by the happy faces. It’s a facade.
  4. The cycle of transition is fraught with an array of emotions. Feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, homesickness, and loss of self-esteem are normal and to be expected. They will pass with time but if you find yourself stuck in a downward cycle for too long and are not able to move forward, you need to seek help.
  5. It is not uncommon for TCKs to feel as if they don’t belong even in their home country. This comes as a surprise because they expect they will fit right in. You have no shared experience with them. It will take time to feel at home. It is a process.
  6. Global nomads find their sense of belonging with others who have shared a similar experience – other kids who have lived the expatriate lifestyle. Look for other TCKs on your college campus. Many so-called ‘international students’ are also TCKs and will have had similar experiences.
  7. Learn the practical life skills you will need for independent living before leaving home. This might include doing laundry, managing a check book, driving a car, taking public transportation, setting up a phone or Internet account, and learning to take responsibility for your actions.

coverglobalnomadsguidetouniversityTina L. Quick, author of The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition

Renata Harper, Guide to Cape Town

“ Guide to Cape Town” by Renata Harper provides you with all you need to know to prepare and move to Cape Town, South Africa, as well as settle in easily.

Cape Guide_cover Guide to Cape Town: The comprehensive manual that includes first hand experiences, extensive research, vast know-how, sound advice and local contacts.

Whether you’re moving to Cape Town or already living there as an expat, this comprehensive e-guide offers all you need to know to make the most of your expat experience in the Mother City.

The Guide to Cape Town is like having a relocation guide in your pocket. Depending on your needs, you may prefer to purchase a) e-guide only or b) e-guide with personal consultations with Renata via email. In the Guide you can expect:

  • Tips on effectively preparing for your move
  • Exact prices for goods and services in Cape Town
  • Advice on where and how to live safely
  • Information on international schools in Cape Town and how they compare to local schools
  • How to get onto the road, into the shops and online quickly and without hassles
  • Where and how to find new friends in Cape Town
  • Where to go to find your “can’t-live-without” specialities from home
  • How to employ domestic employees, including a sample contract
  • Where and when to go on safari and how to save money while optimising your “bush experience”
  • Interviews with expats currently in Cape Town
  • … and lots more.

Buy the guide here: (Top tip: Ask your company to reimburse you for the cost of the guide.)

BONUS! Visit to download these 6 free e-books:

  1. Making the Decision to Move Abroad
  2. Supporting Your Expat Child
  3. Selecting Your New Home
  4. 3 Steps for Settling In Quickly
  5. Making New Friends
  6. Preparation for the Accompanying Partner



TWITTER: @theglobalwriter


“The Guide to Cape Town is like having a local friend who shows you what to do and what not to do in Cape Town. The guide is elaborate and honest and gives no-nonsense information that will guard you from the most common slip-ups and pitfalls in Cape Town. The author’s humour, frankness and writing style make it a pleasure to read. Essential for a well-prepared move to South Africa’s ‘mother city’.” – Bregje, the Netherlands

“The Guide to Cape Town shows you that there is so much to do in Cape Town… and its hints on making friends will be of value anywhere in the world. Very informative… and I really appreciated the safety tips.” – Rachel, Zimbabwe

“This Guide has reassured me that I am not alone as an accompanying spouse … Relocating is an exciting adventure but the novelty quickly turns to reality and as the accompanying spouse I have often felt like I am responsible for keeping the home a ‘happy’ place. I found the Guide’s advice really encouraging and motivating. It has also reignited my desire to explore Cape Town even further and to network that little bit more” – Debbie, England

“This is an essential guide and I wish I’d had this when I arrived in Cape Town. It would have saved me a lot of time and naive questions, as well as many awkward situations. A must-have for all expats fresh off the plane in South Africa!” – Jan, the Netherlands.