This is the VOA Special English Education Report.
International students have a lot of questions about studying in the United States. But what do you suppose is the most common question?
We asked an expert right here in our building. Jessica Stahl is editor of VOA's Student Union blog. Jess blogs for international students interested in American higher education.
JESSICA STAHL: "I think the number one question that I get is financial aid and scholarships. People always want to know, 'How do I get money?' I think that's everyone's biggest concern. Unfortunately, of all the questions I get, that's the one with the most complicated answer."
The short answer is this: Financial aid programs are often just for American students. But programs for international students do exist. You just have to look for them.
Jess says probably the next most often asked question is about language skills.
JESSICA STAHL: "'How do I improve my English?' Because they have to take the TOEFL to apply to colleges, so [there is] a lot of concern about getting up to the level they need on that exam."
Of course, one way many students improve their English is with Special English, like this program. But we like the Student Union's Glossary of Confusing Words used in education. Readers can send in suggestions.
One newly added word is "catalog." An international student adviser wrote to say that new students generally have no idea what a university catalog is. So the glossary now includes this definition: "A university catalog (or college catalog) is an official publication that contains all the information a current or prospective student might need about academics and student services at a university."
Jess has eighteen foreign student bloggers at American schools. Even they were unsure what a catalog is. The students share their experiences studying in the United States -- for example, how they feel when they face cultural stereotypes. Simba, from Zimbabwe, recently wrote about going to lunch with a group of American students. Simba said he felt hurt when one of them was surprised to learn that Facebook is available in Zimbabwe.
Jess says the Student Union and its Facebook page get a lot of comments.
JESSICA STAHL: "I hear from a lot of Chinese students, a lot of Pakistani students -- one of our big audiences -- Nigeria, Indonesia. Pretty much all over the world."
Jess gave us a list of websites where you can research colleges and universities, financial aid and more. We'll post the list at voaspecialenglish.com. She says the only "must-know" site for all international students is EducationUSA, from the State Department. The address is educationusa.info. And if you only know one other site it should be Study in the States, from the Department of Homeland Security. That address is studyinthestates.dhs.gov.
And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Bob Doughty.
Some sites recommended by Jessica Stahl of VOA's Student Union blog:
The only must-know site for all international students:
If you only know one additional site:
Study in the States (Department of Homeland Securty)
Where to research colleges/universities:
Department of Education College Navigator – detailed statistics on US colleges
College search tools tailored for international students:
College Board’s Big Future
College Confidential: international students university search
Other good search sites:
Where to research scholarships/funding:
EducationUSA running list of newly announced scholarships/fellowships
Searchable databases of scholarships:
IIE: Funding for US Study
International Education Financial Aid
Websites with student exchange experiences:
Happy Schools Blog (for Indian students)