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What Do Colleges Look for in International Transcripts?

A Comprehensive Guide for International Students
June 6, 2024
8 Minute Read

Applying to colleges can be overwhelming, especially for international students. Discover what colleges are looking for, common requirements, and how to navigate the admissions process with ease.

Blog image - Student looking for colleges on laptop

Applying to colleges can be tedious, tiring, and frustrating. We understand! It is important to know what colleges are looking for and how you will be assessed when you apply. Generally, international students are evaluated similarly to American students; however, there may be additional criteria and specifications that apply to you.

Why Colleges Accept International Students

  • Diversity 

When there are a mix of students from all over the world, it brings diverse viewpoints to campus and enriches class and social conversations with meaningful interactions. Enabling students to interact with those from diverse backgrounds allows them to see new perspectives with a global lens.

  • Pride 

Colleges celebrate the diversity of countries represented on campus while also taking pride in their ability to educate individuals from across the globe. They provide their students with distinctive experiences, recognizing that the connections and growth among students from diverse backgrounds sets them apart from other institutions. This opportunity not only enhances the educational journey but also fosters a sense of a global community within their student body.

Some Common Requirements 

  • Language Proficiency Exams 

Language proficiency exams come in various forms and are widely used by universities worldwide to assess English skills. These exams measure proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening, and they vary in format and content. It's important for prospective students to research and identify which exams are accepted by their target universities, as certain schools may recognize only specific ones.  


  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) 
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) 
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic 
  • Duolingo English Test (DET)
  • Michigan Language Assessment
  • Writing Sample for English Proficiency 


  • Credential Evaluation Service  

A Credential Evaluation Service reviews foreign academic transcripts and prepares a report that equates your education earned in one country to the educational system of another country. For the United States and Canada, many credential assessment services exist. Good sources listing the various agencies are The National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) for the U.S. and the Alliance of Credential Evaluation Services of Canada (ACESC).

  • Standardize Tests (SAT or ACT)

The ACT and SAT are standardized tests used by U.S. colleges for admissions, assessing skills in English, math, reading, and optional writing. These tests may be a university admissions consideration and in some cases are optional. Check with your preferred institutions first.

  • Grade Point Average and Transcripts 

These records provide insight into the courses a student has taken, the grades they have earned, and their overall academic achievements.

  • Accreditation of Institution Recognition

Colleges seek to verify that the educational institution in a student’s home country meets certain requirements and quality standards. 

  • Proof of Funding

This documentation confirms one has enough financial resources to cover tuition and living expenses abroad, often including bank statements or sponsorship letters. 

  • Personal Essays

Personal essays, also known as personal statements, are brief narratives where applicants share personal experiences, values, and aspirations with admissions officers to showcase their unique qualities. 

  • F-1 Student Visa 

The I-20 Form (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status) or DS-2019 Form (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status) are both forms of student visa and issued by the student’s U.S. school or program sponsor that confirms their acceptance and enrollment in a specific program of study. 

Each University and College Is Autonomous  

Each university or college operates autonomously, establishing its own policies and procedures regarding admission criteria and academic regulations. It's important for students who are applying to conduct thorough research into the specific requirements of each institution they are considering. These requirements can vary significantly, even between different types of programs and schools within the same university. For example, admission criteria for first-year students may differ from those for graduate students, with varying emphasis on standardized test scores and academic achievements. Similarly, transfer rules can vary, affecting the eligibility and credit transfer process for students moving between institutions. Furthermore, distinctions between specific schools or departments, such as engineering, business, or art, can result in unique admission criteria and academic expectations. 

ECE Offers Credential Evaluation Reports

Credential evaluation reports assess academic credentials from foreign institutions, comparing them to local education standards. They analyze content, level, and authenticity, aiding institutions, employers, and licensing boards in recognizing foreign qualifications.


  • ECE offers 5 different types of reports: 
    • General 
    • General with Grade Average 
    • Course By Course (most popular)
    • High School and University Level Course by Course 
    • Subject Analysis

To learn more about the reports we offer, go to the service and fee’s page.

The college admissions process is unique, with each school having its own requirements. Some will require an essay, and others will require an interview; you never know what will come next. One thing that is certain, if you need a credential evaluation, contact ECE. We have you covered with reports for your universities. Contact us today!