May 22, 2021

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Class of 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on many changing policies related to international education in the United States, creating challenges and uncertainty for foreign students and their families as they prepare for higher education in America. While many are skeptical about how the 2020 university admission process could change - and the impact it may have have on their future plans - industry experts see this as an opportunity for international students to thrive and earn admission to some of the most selective universities in the country.

We sat down with Ms. Katie Blue, Amerigo Education Director of University Advising, to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the Class of 2021 as they approach the university application deadline. With years of experience in supporting international students as they are admitted into top US universities, Ms. Blue offers insightful advice to those who are unsure about the application process this year.


Q: Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your working experience and your role within the Amerigo team?

Katie Blue: My name is Katie Blue, and I am Amerigo’s Director of University Advising. I come to this role at Amerigo in my eleventh year of work in higher education admission, college counseling, and student advising.

Before joining Amerigo, I worked as the Director of College Counseling at a private high school in Houston, Texas where I worked with international boarding students seeking admission to American universities. Before choosing to work directly with high school students in the college application process, I worked as Assistant Director of Admission at Rice University in Houston, Texas. 

Q: Could you describe the Amerigo University Guidance program and the support provided to international students in applying and enrolling at top U.S. universities?

Katie Blue: Amerigo’s University Guidance program is a four-year, comprehensive approach to preparing students to U.S. university admission. We work with student on grade and age-level appropriate topics to help them understand how to use their experience in a U.S. high school to better understand their passions and interests, to help shape their academic, and to help them meet their university admission goals. 

Together, our goal is to see every student achieve the best possible outcome in university admission for them as an individual.

Q: This year, Amerigo’s rolling out the Amerigo Agreement to support students getting into Top 50 US Universities. Could you explain what the Agreement means for international students?

Katie Blue: Simply put, the Amerigo Agreement is a statement of good faith in the quality of our program and services. Students who are able to demonstrate specific academic and extracurricular achievement throughout their time at Amerigo could be eligible for the Honors Track. The Agreement states that we are committed to taking all necessary steps to support our Honors Track students in being admitted to a Top 50 University. 

Q: And which Top 50* US universities have Amerigo students been admitted so far?

Katie Blue: I’m happy to say that our students have been admitted to top programs at University of Southern California (#25), New York University (#30), University of Florida (#30), Boston University (#42), Case Western Reserve University (#42); Northeastern University (#49); University of Wisconsin – Madison (#42); University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (#47). Quite a number of students from Amerigo’s Class of 2020 were also admitted to the pretigious University of California system, including UC Santa Barbara (#30), UC Irvine (#35), and UC Davis (#39).

*According to U.S. News & World Report Rankings of American Universities and Rankings of American Liberal Arts Colleges

 Q: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for international students when applying to U.S. universities?

 Katie Blue: I think there are a few issues that present challenges to international students in the admission process.

The first is how they approach university scholarship and need-based aid issues. Often, international students seeking scholarship and aid are also trying to earn admission at some on the nation’s most expensive and most selective universities. While this is understandable, there are almost always other great universities that student who is seeking to stay in a university tuition budget should be considering.

Next, I think one of the biggest issues international students face is a limited amount of time being educated in a U.S. high school. Limited time being enrolled at  U.S. high school means less time that students have to gain deep, layered involvement in extracurricular activities; it means less time to take rigorous, college-prep courses; it means less time to work with our team in preparing college applications.

Therefore, we often advise students planning to pursue higher education in the US to consider enrolling in Amerigo schools as soon as 9th grade to best prepare for university application.

Q: What is one of your favorite moments working with an Amerigo student?

Katie Blue: My favorite moments working with students are perhaps not what you would think. I rarely remember the acceptances. Instead, I am most impacted by the personal stories they share that demonstrate their character, their unique talents, and their hope for the future. I am most impacted by the opportunity to really get to know each student I work with, and to help them find their own motivation and independence through the application process.

Q: What have been the challenges international students experienced specifically this year when applying to U.S. universities?

Katie Blue: Like American students, international students have faced the ever-changing situation with standardized testing. They have faced the struggles and uncertainties of online learning, and they have faced the challenges of not being able to travel freely or interacted with their classmates and peers in a traditional way. These things all have potential impact on their college applications.

“Specifically, I think international students have struggled to really understand test-optional admission and to accept that admission in the U.S. will probably never follow the same patterns it did in the past. Like all students, they have struggled to adjust to a new way of thinking about this process.”


Q: Final question for you: what are some key tips for students and as they prepare their 2021 university applications?

Katie Blue: There are four main tips I usually advise international students I work with to follow:

  1. Stop focusing on SAT/ACT prep.

  2. There seems to be a rising emphasis on driving TOEFL and iELTS scores higher and higher as a way to supplement the absence of an SAT. This is not a wise use of a student’s time and energy past a certain point.

  3. Students, when possible, should strongly consider Early Decision applications. They should almost always be targeting Early Action applications when they can.

  4. Students should remember to always be engaged and attentive to what their high school needs from them with regard to letters of recommendation, transcripts, and university lists in Naviance.

Q: Thank you for your time and for your hard work supporting Amerigo students!