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How Soon Should I Apply To Host An Exchange Student?

You’ve been thinking about and talking about taking an exchange student for months now. Now you’re wondering what is the deadline for you to apply? When should you apply to host an exchange student? Foreign exchange students typically arrive in the United States in early to mid-August for the Fall Semester and early January for the Winter semester. Ideally, you should start the application process in the early Spring (April) for the Fall term and early Fall (October) for the Winter term. 

The application process for becoming a host family involves a few steps that can take 2-3 weeks to complete.

  • Submit an application.
  • Be interviewed in your home by a local program representative.
  • Have a background check.
  • The local program representative checks your references.
  • You choose a student.
  • The exchange student program/local representative seeks approval from the school. 

Benefits Of Applying Early For Host Parenting

Foreign exchange student programs will require lots of paperwork in order for you to become a host family. First, there is an application that includes personal and professional references. You’ll also receive a visit from a representative of the program and have a background/criminal history done before you’ll be approved.

Just as the program screens you, you’ll also want to do your homework on the program. Prior to submitting your application, talk with your school about the exchange student program that you’re interested in. What is their track record in terms of student success? Are the students well-supervised? Is the local coordinator known around the district? If you’re prepared to submit your application early, you’ll have the time to learn about the program you plan to work with. You can even compare programs to see which works best for you. 

If you apply early, you’ll also have a larger pool of students to choose from. Most foreign exchange students submit their applications by February for Fall admittance. If you wait until the summer, you’ll have fewer kids to choose from. It is especially important to apply early if you want a student from a particular country. Possibly you’re interested in hosting a student from Israel because of family heritage or the Sahara because your college roommate was from there. Most exchange students coming to the United States come from Europe or Asia. The earlier you apply, the better chance you’ll have to get a student from another part of the world. 

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School districts will only accept a certain number of foreign exchange students. They base this on the size of the district and the number of students enrolled at the high school. That said, if you wait too late, you might miss out on the chance to take a student. 

Time To Get Ready For Your Student

The earlier you apply, the more time you will have to get ready for your student. They will arrive about two weeks before school begins so if you wait too late to apply, you’ll have very little time to prepare. This includes taking the time to read up on your student’s culture and familiarizing the family with some of their customs and traditions. You’ll also contact your student via Skype or WhatsApp to get to know them and make them feel welcome. 

You might also have some work to do in their bedroom or have to go shopping for linens and other things. Applying early will keep you from having to rush and will cut down tremendously on your stress level as you continue to prepare. 

In late summer, the exchange student program will host an orientation for all host families. It will include host families from around your county and its surrounding area. If you wait too late, your family will have a one-on-one orientation which is not quite the same. 

Your Applying Early Is Good For The Exchange Student

Most exchange students are a nervous wreck waiting to hear where they’ll be spending their year abroad. When you apply early, your student will be put at ease knowing where they will be placed. They will also have the opportunity to get to know you and become familiar with the school and community via the internet. 

Last Minute, Emergency Placements

The truth is, exchange student programs are always looking for host families at the last minute. This doesn’t always mean these students are not the best. Some exchange students wait to apply because they are afraid or have trouble getting their funds together. Don’t shy away from hosting an exchange student because it is late in the season. Instead, you should contact the program and let them know that you are open to taking a student if slots are still available at the school. As long as the school semester has not started, it is not too late for you to apply. You might make a kid’s dream come true as some students cannot come when they apply late because there is no host family available.

Applying early is best. You’ll get your selection of students and you’ll have plenty of time to get ready physically and emotionally for their arrival. It is also an advantage to your student who is likely waiting to hear from the program as to where they will go. If, however, you can’t apply early, don’t let that dissuade you from requesting a student. You just might be the home and family that an exchange student has been waiting for. 

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