Born in Another Country? Here’s How to Get Into Harvard - OZY | A Modern Media Company


Some kids (and their parents) are reinventing what “international exchange” really means for teenagers. Say ”hi” to a more multicultural classroom. 

By Anne Miller

Ask a college-bound junior or senior about the insane competition for a slot in the right college, and many will admit they’d do almost anything to get ahead. Some 14-year-olds will even pack up, leave their families and friends for four years, and head off to an elite high school thousands of miles from home.

Foreign students are no different, though they travel farther — and there are more international high schoolers in the U.S. than ever before.

A growing number of international students are seeking out American high school diplomas as a step toward getting accepted at U.S. colleges, according to a new report by the Institute of International Education. It reports that 

48,632 international students


enrolled for a full diploma in American high schools as of October 2013. The number has more than 


over the past decade. The number of full-time foreign enrollees is now more than double the number of exchange students, which the IIE said is approximately 24,000.

The reason international students are flocking to U.S. high schools at such a tender age? To get a head start on the college race, according to the report. “Many international students are now seeking to earn high school diplomas abroad to position themselves as more competitive applicants for higher education institutions in the host or destination country,” the report says.

International students can help plump university coffers, because most pay the full sticker price for their educations.

The full-time high schoolers clutching passports are from Asia, mostly. Forty-six percent are from China alone. The vast majority, some 95 percent, attend elite private schools, mostly in California and New York. The reason: Visa regulations limit public secondary school attendance to one year but don’t restrict time in a private institution.


Other English-speaking nations, mainly members of the English Commonwealth, have also seen a bump in full-time foreign enrollment in secondary school — but not as much as the U.S. has.

Experts say the trend could prove a boon for colleges, which get a better shot at recruiting international students. International students, in turn, can help plump university coffers, because most pay the full sticker price for their educations. (They are not eligible for federal student loans and many university scholarships.) A 2013 report from the IIE reported that international-student enrollment at U.S. universities has risen by 40 percent over the previous decade.


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