The U.S. is the most popular destination for international students in the entire world. And why not? As well as a great higher education system, the U.S. is the home of freedom, equality and competitive eating (and we\u2019re proud of all of them, for better or worse).\r\n\r\n[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450"] God bless America! [Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives\/wikimedia][\/caption]But competition to study in the U.S. is high, so if you\u2019re planning to apply, there are some things you\u2019ll need to know about first.\r\n1. Setting a Schedule\r\nApplying to study in the U.S. can be a lengthy process, so it\u2019s vital to set aside time accordingly.\r\n\r\nIt can help to create a timeline for each step in the application process, from initial research into courses right through to making travel arrangements for when you start your studies.\r\n2. Admission Tests\r\nMost U.S. colleges use standardized admission tests, so you\u2019ll need to check which tests are favored by the institution at which you\u2019re planning to study.\r\n\r\nCommon tests required for undergraduate students include the SAT, the TOEFL English proficiency test, and the American College Test (ACT).\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_2415" align="aligncenter" width="333"] Make sure to prepare for the exam properly, too![\/caption]\r\n3. Soft Factors\r\nAs well as test scores and academic qualifications, most American colleges look at \u201csoft factors\u201d when assessing an application. These include extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, application essays and other relevant experience you might have.\r\n4. The Common Application\r\nThe Common Application (or Common App for short) is a standardized, online application used by more than 600 colleges. Using this can make the application process much simpler.\r\n5. Finance\r\nMany U.S. colleges operate on a \u201cneed-aware\u201d basis for international students. This is unlike the \u201cneed-blind\u201d approach used for U.S. citizens (wherein a college will not consider ability to pay as part of an application and may offer financial aid to successful applicants).\r\n\r\nAs an international student, you\u2019ll need to check whether your college uses a \u201cneed-aware\u201d or \u201cneed-blind\u201d approach for applications. You may find the application process is quicker if you\u2019re able to pay tuition fees yourself, without needing financial aid.\r\n\r\n[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300"] It's funny how piles of cash can make things simpler.[\/caption]\r\n6. Get In Touch!\r\nWhen picking a college, it\u2019s a good idea to get in touch with their international student advisor to ask about the application process (every college is a little different). They should also be able to answer any questions you have about the institution at which they work.