Can an international writer get into top US colleges?

I have some questions... they are quite a bit but I really need to know the right answer as I'm not from the US and everyone - including my teachers - seems to be VERY misinformed. The only advice they give me is to be well-rounded, and you said that's a bad thing... I think it's bad too :D. Also, it's good to know that I'm not a native English speaker. I'm from Bulgaria - a small country in Eastern Europe. I won't be surprised if you haven't even heard of it. Have you?

So... here's the 1st question: As English is a foreign language to me, I'm taking the C2 exam (administered by Cambridge, equivalent to IELTS, better than TOEFL) in a year. Taking C2 exam instead of IELTS isn't a problem, is it?

2) I am an amateur writer. I want to work in the writing/ cinematography field. I feel books/ films are the wind beneath my wings!!! I've already written the manuscripts of 7 high fantasy novels and I had my first one published in 2014 (then I was 15, now I'm 16). The problem is, Bulgarian publishers aren't interested in publishing adult Bulgarian writers, let alone 10th graders as me. Barely 5% of Bulgarian people read. Book market here is quite corrupted. Don't even get me started on Bulgarian movie business - American is waaaaaay better! I see no point in pursuing writing/ move director/ etc./ career in my home country so I'm thinking about going to uni in the US. I'm planning on taking the SAT, as well as the SAT Literature Subject Test and Math I. Suppose I take them with flying colors (on my first practice test I had about 1350-1400 --- on the Renewed SAT) - would they be enough?

3) If everything is OK, I should have my 2nd novel published by the end of 2016. I have won a few Literature and Math competitions - on a national and regional level, respectively. I have won 2 scholarships; one of my short stories was published in a magazine. I'm having the 1st chapter of my already-published novel translated in English and published in a matter of weeks in an English magazine. Also, I'm going to create a webpage and post my short stories there, as well as other writing stuff... I have "6"s (which is equivalent to "A"s) in all school subjects. Unfortunately, Bulgarian education system doesn't have GPA or APs. Does this put me in a disadvantage?

4) We have 13-15 compulsory school subjects while Americans students have about 8. Is this an advantage?

5) I have a lot of household chores, look after my sister and my pet dog, study for SAT exams and write (novels and stories), so I don't have time for jobs or volunteering. Moreover, those two aren't my cup of tea AT ALL. Would this affect my application?

6) What are my chances of getting into top colleges with writing/ film studies programs? I know it's not a simple calculation to be made, and there are no ways to predict it, but what should be my target colleges?

7) The next one is an odd question... If you didn't know I was non-native, would you be able to tell from my comment?

8) And... here's the last question... at last! I want to learn more about American culture. The Internet isn't always useful. Is there a way for me to connect with American peers on Facebook?

Well, these are the questions I can think of. I count on you helping me. I would highly appreciate if you give me some advice! I'm looking forward to your reply!

Ok, I'm going to try and answer all of your questions. I'd say that in the future if you end up posting again you should try to stick with just one or two related questions per post.

Your first question was whether taking the C2 exam instead of IELTS would be an issue. From the research I've done, it looks like more colleges in the US accept the IELTS than the Cambridge exam. I would advise you to take the IELTS instead of the C2 just to be safe. You can use this site to search for which schools accept each test. You can also look up specific colleges that interest you and see what they say on their admissions pages under testing requirements for international students.

For your second question, if you're asking whether your current practice test scores are high enough, for most colleges the answer is yes. You would need to score higher if you're hoping to get into the most selective subset of schools, but a score of 1350-1400 will be considered very good overall. For almost any college in the US, you won't need to take additional tests on top of the ones you mention. Most schools don't even require subject tests, so you might only need your regular SAT scores to apply. If you do well the first time, there's no need to take the tests again. Just make sure you check the average SAT scores at schools that interest you to ensure that you fall within the right range.

I'm going to combine my answers to questions three and four because in both of them you ask about how differences in the Bulgarian education system will affect your chances of admission. From what you've written about your accomplishments, I don't think you have any reason to worry. American Universities make it their business to understand educational systems in other countries so they can judge international applicants fairly. If your school doesn't offer APs or record a standard GPA, that in itself will not put you at a disadvantage. You seem to have extremely high grades in all your classes, which will be appreciated by colleges even if those grades aren't ultimately represented by a cumulative GPA. I don't think the fact that you have more required school subjects will necessarily be an advantage if that's just the standard in Bulgaria. Anything that's inherent to your school system (and thus outside of your control) shouldn't serve as either an advantage or disadvantage in the admissions process.

Now for your fifth question! I don't think you'll run into issues with a lack of jobs and volunteer work considering your other accomplishments. It sounds like writing is essentially a job for you since you've already had your work published a few times. You clearly have very strong extracurricular accomplishments in one specific area, so you'll stand out as an applicant without additional minor commitments listed on your application. To me, it seems entirely understandable that you wouldn't have time for volunteering or jobs.

For question six, here's a list of some of the best schools for film studies in the US. Assuming you end up with high test scores, I think you have a realistic shot at all of them. Your background and accomplishments are unique and impressive enough that these schools will probably be interested in you. Your choice will depend on where in the US you would prefer to be and how much financial aid you're looking for (some schools are need blind for international applicants and some, unfortunately, are not). Many schools in California have excellent film programs, including University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts and UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television. New York University's Tisch School of the Arts is also an excellent place for film students. Keep in mind that for some of these schools you will need to submit a portfolio of work to accompany your application. Some even have their own creative projects that they ask students to complete and submit along with their application. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to get supplemental materials together if you plan to apply to one of these intense creative programs.

My answer for question seven is inevitably going to be subjective. I could tell that you probably weren't a native English speaker just because of a couple of unusual phrasings you used and a few instances of incorrect grammar (you just forgot a couple of articles - for example "Book market here is quite corrupted" should be "The book market here is quite corrupted.") . Even so, I think your writing is excellent for a non-native speaker. Most Americans have yet to master the rules of correct comma use, but you seem to be an expert.

Your last question is a little harder for me to answer. I think your best bet is to join an admitted students group on Facebook after you get into one or more American universities. People often post on these pages discussing their interests, so you might be able to make a connection with someone based on your shared passion for writing or film. I don't think there is one centralized group for international students to connect with American peers, but if I do find more information about this I'll add it to my answer.

Best of luck!

1 Like