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Taking the Leap: Why American Colleges Are Worth Giving It a Shot as an International Student
Jimena Luque
Harvard 2025

A couple of years ago, when I told my friends and family that I wanted to go to college in the U.S., the reactions I received were all over the place. Some of them believed me, others didn’t, and honestly I don’t blame them: in my country, the idea of studying abroad sounds like an unreachable fantasy, a privilege reserved only to the kids who come from very wealthy families.

The existence of Peruvian companies that advertise themselves as the only real option to be accepted to an American university, charging absurdly high amounts of money to make your dream a reality, contribute to the generalized notion that you have to come from a family of “pitucos” (which is Peruvian slang for people with lots of money) to have even the slightest chance of getting in.

I used to believe in that idea for a long time, even while I was applying: the overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety I felt while following the admissions process on my own remains fresh in my mind. After scanning even the most hidden corners of the internet and rarely finding any stories like mine, on the contrary, finding several testimonies of the challenge it meant for an international student to be admitted to college in the U.S., I must admit there was a time where I completely lost my faith. Is this really going to be worth all the time that I’m investing, all the effort that my family and I are putting in? Is it going to be enough?

Am I even enough?

These questions constantly haunted my mind, like a loud, discouraging voice that almost made me give up and leave the goal aside.

If you’re an international student considering the possibility of applying to universities in the United States, you’re probably feeling that same daunting voice inside of you as well.

But today, as someone who was able to complete the process alone, I assure you that it is not only possible to do it on your own, but in fact, there are many reasons to at least give it a shot! For starters, it’s undeniable that the U.S. has one of the most enriching academic and professional environments in the world, if not the best. On the other hand, in addition to the remarkable growth you’ll experience as a student, the residential system that characterizes virtually the entire American college system will help you become more independent, more responsible, and even a more respectful and tolerant person.

Of course, just like with any other important decision, it’s important to recognize that you’ll find certain difficulties as well: living far apart from your loved ones and adapting to life in an entirely new society isn’t easy. However, if you’re one of those people who’s always looking for opportunities to grow and improve, you’ll realize that it’s a challenge worth facing. Moreover, if you choose to be optimistic, you’ll find that the experience of being exposed to different cultures and to an institution with a global perspective will be incredibly valuable and gratifying.

If you’re considering the possibility of applying to college in the United States from abroad, a great first step to take is to make a quick online investigation about everything you’ll need to send and fill out (fortunately, the application components have very few variations among most universities), and then talk to your family about your idea. After all, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so you won’t lose anything by trying.

But if you do manage to study in the U.S., rest assured that your academic and professional preparation, as well as your future, will have forever changed.