Thinking ahead: Preparing for life in a North American university as an international student

Getting ready to study in a North American university as an international student can be a daunting experience. Not only do many students have to master a new language, but will also be concerned about meeting the academic requirements, navigating the campus and settling into university life in the U.S. or Canada. Many international students are opting to begin study in North America during their high school years to expose them to diverse communities and better prepare them for the university admissions process.

International students receive excellent support at North American high schools prior to beginning their college education. Students won’t have to feel they are on their own as they will form part of a growing, vibrant international community. Almost one million international students went on to study at U.S. colleges and universities during the 2014 to 2015 academic year, according to the Open Doors Data Portal, part of the Institute of International Education. Meanwhile, approximately 336,000 international students studied in Canada during the same period.

“International experience is one of the most important components of a 21st century education, and study abroad should be viewed as an essential element of a college degree,” said Institute of International Education President Dr. Allan E. Goodman. “Learning how to study and work with people from other countries and cultures also prepares future leaders to contribute to making the world a less dangerous place.”



Preparing for university life at a North American high school is a thoroughly modern experience, with increasing numbers of institutions offering students access to state-of-the-art learning and sports facilities, world-class research and countless societies and clubs. Students will also learn how to exist and study alongside their peers from a wide variety of backgrounds and countries, producing intelligent, tolerant graduates, able to progress on to top universities and, in time, a wide variety of positions and careers.

Interested in studying at a high-caliber North American high school and how this can help you prepare for university life? Read on to find out how you can get ahead by beginning your studies at one of these institutions:

Brush up your English skills

Taking the time to complete an English course prior to beginning your studies at a North American university will be of great help in the long run. High school provides an excellent opportunity to prepare for this and to build these skills as you will receive knowledgeable help and support from teachers who are experienced with providing English tuition to students of all levels, from all around the globe. A sound grasp of the English language will help with all aspects of your education, from school all the way up to university. Learning English doesn’t have to be a chore, your new American course mates will be sure to want to help!

Make yourself heard

Class participation is a big factor in North American universities, so high school is the perfect place to build this as a skill. Having a good argument and speaking out could make a difference in students’ final grades. International students are no exception to this rule and shouldn’t feel shy or intimidated – each and every opinion counts. In fact, learning how to debate and structure an argument are also important general life skills, set to help students during their time at school, university and beyond.

Have fun outside of class

From basketball to athletics, drama, music and debating, North American institutions offer clubs and societies for all interests and whims. Signing up to a club is also an excellent way to make friends, improve your English and have some fun outside of class. International students are welcome to take part in all of the clubs and teams at their chosen institution. North American universities highly value well-rounded students, so taking up a new hobby during your time in high school will count in your favour when it comes to applying for your dream degree course.



Do ask for help

For international students considering studying in North America, help is at hand. All good high schools, and the universities you will progress on to, have staff on hand to answer questions and offer assistance during your entire time as a student. Whether you need advice or support with your studies, family matters or with your future plans there will be someone there to aid you. High schools are particularly good at helping you think through your options for further study and preparing you for university education. Each student is valued as a unique individual, so whether you’re passionate about the arts, or your skills lie in maths and science, you can get help tailored to your own strengths for admissions into the university that best suits you. Preparation is the key to success – so don’t be afraid to ask for help as you look to achieve your goals!



Read on to find out more about some of the excellent North American schools that are preparing international students to get the very best out of university life:

Founded in 2013, American University Preparatory School (AUP) is an innovative and forward-thinking boarding and day school for grades 9-12. Its enviable location in downtown Los Angeles and a focus on STEAM Education and Global Leadership make AUP a top choice among international students looking to advance to a top U.S. university. This modern school was set up with the understanding that the primary goal of most students and their parents is admission into the finest U.S. colleges and universities. “We have, from the very beginning, structured and organized our curriculum and extra-curricular activities with this goal in mind,” says school head and founder Dr. David R. Unruh.

Offering students a supportive and nurturing environment with a thoroughly modern outlook, Pickering College provides a thoroughly personal boarding school experience for students up to grade 12. The school’s Quaker principles are a key part of the education program, producing accomplished students who retain a strong connection with the school community. At Pickering, classrooms are equipped with SmartBoards, educational software and wireless technology meaning that students can benefit from a 21st century education. The school’s warm and welcoming campus environment, some 30 minutes north of Toronto, Ontario, is an excellent choice for international students looking for a state-of-the-art boarding education.

At St. John’s-Ravenscourt (SJR), students are encouraged to approach challenges with confidence while developing their curiosity and critical thinking skills. Students have the opportunity to ask questions and consider different outcomes, while feeling that their choices are fully supported and respected. At SJR, the boarding program offers students a unique experience, combining a vibrant curriculum with modern facilities and sports facilities which are second to none. Students are actively encouraged to build a strong body, to complement their active minds and healthy school lifestyle. Located in Winnipeg, international students can benefit from an outstanding education in beautiful surroundings.

Founded in 1867, Lyndon Institute provides a unique educational experience for students, promoting a lifetime of learning and good citizenship. Lyndon is an independent and comprehensive high school for grades 9 – 12, offering a 200-course curriculum specializing in fine and performing arts and technical career programs. Lyndon students benefit from a personalized education, providing outstanding preparation for life after secondary-school. Located in beautiful Vermont, students benefit from a wide range of outdoor activities, complementing the school’s all-round curriculum. Lyndon strives to develop not only students’ intellectual potential, but also their physical and creative outlets through its varied and unique teaching style.

Consisting of a team of dedicated teachers, a strong community spirit and the drive to treat each student as an individual, White Mountain offers students a truly unique learning experience. Grounded in Episcopal heritage, White Mountain aims to prepare and inspire students to lead lives full of curiosity, courage and compassion. Students are welcomed into a busy campus life, where athletics and the numerous clubs and societies on offer ensure that students enjoy time outside of the classroom. White Mountain is proud of its support and advice available for students, ensuring that no problem is left unresolved.

Images via Shutterstock, American University Preparatory School and St. John’s-Ravenscourt