Thursday, May 24, 2012

International Exchange: How to Apply and Improve Your Eligibility

Are you considering taking part in an international exchange program—a program that allows you to live and study abroad in a foreign country?  Do you know how to apply for such programs and how to increase your chances of being accepted?  Participating in an international exchange program can be the opportunity of a lifetime, but as you well know, the chance to do so is not a right, but rather a privilege.  Most students in good standing at their high school or university will be eligible for these programs, but space is often limited, which means not everyone can participate.  There are, however, some things you can do to bolster your application.  To illustrate this, below we will briefly discuss how to apply for an international exchange program, along with some other tips to help improve your chances of being accepted.

About International Exchange Programs

Prior to World War II, when global tensions ran high, there were only a handful of international exchange programs in operation, and even those were quite limited in what they offered, especially in terms of the number of countries that participated in such programs.  Since the end of the war, however, the number of companies, organizations and educational institutions providing exciting international exchange adventures has been rising every year.  Together they have offered millions of high school and university students the opportunity to study and live abroad for a time in almost any major country in the world—the chance to learn and absorb a new culture, including its language, customs and traditions.  These are exciting times for international exchange programs, as there have never been more choices in terms of available destinations and the variety of academic and linguistic programs being offered. 

International Exchange:  How to Apply and Improve Your Eligibility

In most cases, the application process for international exchange programs is rather simple.  For high school students, applications are usually handled and distributed by guidance counselors, while at colleges and universities there is normally a separate department that deals with international exchange programs and provides assistance for students studying abroad.  Eligibility requirements vary depending on the institution and the organization operating the program, but generally speaking, you must be a reasonably good student, often with at least a 3.0 grade point average.  After submitting your application, a committee will review it, and if deemed eligible you will be scheduled for an interview, typically before a panel of educators and representatives from the company offering the program.  If selected to participate, you will be notified in writing and provided instructions on how to prepare for your trip, including the process for arranging your flight, accommodations and obtaining your travel documents.

Sounds easy, right?  Actually it is, but as we mentioned, not everyone can participate, and because of that, the process can often be very competitive.  Here are just few ways to improve your chances of being selected:

·         Hit the books.  The grades you earn in your classes are only one of the criteria for international exchange programs, but higher marks will often cathch the eye of the selection committee.

·         Get involved at school.  Much like on a college application, certain weight is given to how involved you are at your school. When grades are equal, students who participate in a number of clubs, sports and other extra-curricular activities will generally have an edge over their non-involved competition.

·         Participate in your community.  Participating in and helping your community says a lot about your character and trustworthiness.  In fact, there are many international exchange programs offered by community service groups, including Rotary International, one of the largest such groups in the world.

The final tip for improving your eligibility is to be flexible in terms of your destination.  International exchange programs are currently offered in almost every country in the world, and while you may not be able to go to, say, France, due to limited space, there may be over 150 other countries that would be happy to have you as a guest.

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