Earn a certificate in international college advising and develop your capacity to guide students seeking higher education experiences outside their home countries.

Understanding the admissions processes, cultural contexts, socioemotional aspects, and other influential factors involved in international college counseling can be complex. Counselors who advise international students need to be fluent in the ways in which higher education systems operate in order to best serve their students as they make important decisions about their futures and prepare for the transition to college.

What Sets Us Apart

  Engage in live virtual sessions with experienced admissions and college advising leaders.
  Access a network of professionals with ample opportunities to connect, share resources, and develop professional networks, both in a larger cohort format and in smaller teams.
 Focus on contemporary challenges and opportunities in an accelerated format.

About the Program

Developed by faculty at Penn GSE, the top-ranked graduate school of education in the U.S., the International College Advising certificate program is the only comprehensive college advising program designed for international college counselors. The program is tailored to mid-career college advisors working with international students who wish to pursue higher education outside their home countries. Whether you are an advisor in an international secondary school, a counselor at a boarding school with a large international caseload, or an independent educational consultant, you will gain a greater fluency of international higher education systems so that you can better serve students and families in your school or community.

Application deadline:

Priority - February 15, 2024
Final - March 31, 2024

Program start

April 18, 2024

Program length

3 months

Certificate offered

Penn GSE Certificate in International College Advising


This program includes both live virtual sessions and asynchronous work to be completed at your own pace.

  • Program fee: $7,500
  • Early-bird fee: $7,000

For information about group payment options or payment plans, please contact ProfessionalLearning@gse.upenn.edu.

Programs for Working Professionals

The International College Advising certificate program is a unique and valuable professional development opportunity focused on current international admissions processes and associated cultural contexts. The program helps college advisors, counselors, and educational consultants develop the skills to successfully guide students seeking higher education experiences outside of their home countries.

The program includes both synchronous sessions and asynchronous work, with the opportunity to learn and grow from working with larger group sessions and smaller teams. You will have the opportunity to expand your network among a cohort of colleagues and peers. 

If you have questions, please contact us at ProfessionalLearning@gse.upenn.edu.



Ideal Candidates

Mid-career college advisors at international secondary schools, counselors at boarding schools with a large international caseload, and independent educational consultants working with international students who wish to pursue higher education in the U.S, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Language Requirements

Advanced English language proficiency is a requirement for this program. Participants are expected to be able to read scholarly texts and current news articles. Participants must also be able to produce written coursework as assigned and actively engage in nuanced discussions with facilitators and cohort members.

This program reserves the right to request proof of English proficiency from applicants whose native language is not English, who have not earned a tertiary degree in English, or who have not worked in a predominantly English language office for at least two years. Duolingo (Score: 120) is the preferred method for demonstrating proficiency. Results should be sent via Duolingo by accessing the website's search filter, filtering institution type to “Other,” and sending the score to “Penn GSE International College Advising Certificate Program.” Please contact us if you have a financial need and require a testing-fee waiver.

Program Study

The International College Advising Certificate Program is designed for mid-level college advisors who work with students that seek higher education destinations outside their home country. Our facilitators' expertise and experience is global. Previous cohorts have had a keen interest in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia, with additional curiosity about higher education practices in other parts of the world.

From the program curriculum, you can expect to:

  • Develop fluency with the U.S. higher education system, including the market orientation of colleges and universities and how this orientation relates to admissions policies and practices.
  • Understand the role of various quantitative and qualitative factors in the college admissions process.
  • Appreciate various external influencers (third-party vendors, parents, rankings) and their roles in college admissions.
  • Embrace an ethical perspective in counseling students and families engaged in the college admissions process.
  • Display cultural competencies with students and parents across various ethnic, racial, and national backgrounds, and university locations (e.g., U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia).
  • Consider the socioeconomic factors of college choice, and the financial decisions for students and families that accompany these choices.
  • Identify a problem of practice for exploration and research.

Program Schedule

International College Advising Certificate Program: Spring 2024

Synchronous sessions will be held every Thursday from 7:30-9:30 a.m. ET/ 7:30-9:30 p.m. BJT

Synchronous Sessions Dates & TimesFacilitator(s)
Session Topics

7:30 - 9:30 a.m. (EDT) 


  • Eric Kaplan
  • Laura Severin


Program Orientation and Trends in Global Higher Education

In our opening session, we will discuss program logistics, establish and meet home teams, consider the current global higher education landscape, and preview Problems of Practice.


7:30 - 9:30 a.m. (EDT)  

  • Alan  Ruby
Institutions of Excellence: Reframing World Class Universities

This module asks learners to consider two primary objectives: 1) understand the strengths and weaknesses of the ‘world-class university concept’ and world ranking schemes and 2) develop a better appreciation of institutional excellence and quality by looking at education through 4 different lenses.


7:30 - 9:30 a.m. (EDT)  

  •  Michelle Chow-Liu
Cultural Frameworks and Ethics in Advising

With a focus on global research resources for balanced list building, learners engage in candid conversations about the cultural frameworks, including the challenges of managing parent expectations or school administrator goals. This module takes a deep dive into the ethics of admissions and some of the tensions that accompany student-centered advising.


7:30 - 9:30 a.m. (EDT)  

  • Aleka Bilan
Crossing Cultures with Success

The goal of attending university overseas includes learning about how to interact with other cultures. How can we educate our students about this cross-cultural experience, beginning during the research and application process? Then, how can we best prepare overseas-bound students and their families for the challenges and opportunities inherent in crossing cultures for educational purposes? Participants will learn to define cross-cultural kids (CCKs), the research into this population, as well as the basic tenets of intercultural understanding and communication.

7:30 - 9:30 a.m. (EDT) 
  • Elizabeth Heaton
  • Eric Kaplan
Understanding Holistic Admissions and Institutional Priorities

Holistic admissions is a frequently misunderstood practice at highly selective colleges and universities. Unlike admission based on a combination of minimum academic standards, such as grades and/or test scores, holistic admissions considers the entire application, including academic and nonacademic accomplishments, and the personal qualities and contextual aspects of an applicant’s profile. When the nuance of holistic review is paired with the complexities of institutional priorities, the outcomes may not make sense to external audiences, especially applicants and their families. In this session, we will define and discuss how these two phenomena operate independently and in tandem.

7:30 - 9:30 a.m. (EDT) 
  • Eric Kaplan
  • Laura Severin

External Pressures and Rankings

Recent unprecedented events, including a worldwide pandemic, concerns about studying in the U.S., U.K., and other global destinations, uncertain institutional finances, and the test-optional movement have impacted institutional and consumer (student) behavior. Amidst all this turmoil, the annual college and university rankings have become even more important to some audiences who wrestle with the value of global educational options. This session will focus on the myriad pressures facing higher education, including annual rankings, and the impact of these pressures on students and families.

7:30 - 9:30 a.m. (EDT) 
  • Joan Liu

Understanding Financial Aid

This workshop is for counselors working with international students seeking full scholarships (tuition, room and board) in the US. Learn the basics of how to advocate, support, and guide international students from low-income backgrounds seeking access to higher education. This module will 1) introduce you to the various “buckets” of financial aid and scholarships offered in the US, 2) give you a workflow for how to support a student applying for a seat with a full ride, 3) help you understand how to construct a list for 0 EFC students, and 4) go over best practices in advocacy, pitfalls to avoid, and common mistakes that counselors make when guiding this important demographic.

7:30 - 9:30 a.m. (EDT) 
  • Isthier Chaudhury
  • Marcela Mejia

Beyond Case Studies: What Really Happens in the Candidate Selection Process

Learners will participate in an admission committee through an activity that includes reviewing and rating applications. Guided by readings and group conversations and bringing together topics of holistic admission, institutional priorities, cultural frameworks, the selection process, and student trends, this module will provide a deeper understanding of international college advising. Led by two experienced international admission experts, the session will offer authentic, candid dialogue on the selection process, addressing myths, assumptions, and misunderstandings. As international college advisors seek opportunities to support and guide international students toward global educational opportunities, this in-depth experience with the holistic US university admission process will leave learners more confident in advising students.

7:30 - 9:30 a.m. (EDT) 
  •  Eric Kaplan
 Discussions of Problems of Practice

The Problems of Practice exercise is designed for learners to identify and address an issue in their school, practice, or community. Throughout the course, learners will consider how readings and resources can guide or support their independent research topic. Learners will develop a presentation in the form of a paper, a video, an infographic, a PowerPoint, a Podcast, or another platform and share the results with their home team in advance of the session. In this live module, learners will discuss the successes and challenges of your research and potential next steps.

7:30 - 9:30 a.m. (EDT) 
  • Eric Kaplan
 Putting It All Together: What’s Next

Our Faculty

Eric Kaplan

Academic Director, International College Advising Certificate Program
Penn GSE Faculty Aleka Bilan
Director of Wellbeing and Cross-Cultural Transitions Coach, UWC, Thailand
Penn GSE Faculty Isthier Chaudhury
Director of Admissions, Swarthmore College
Penn GSE Faculty Michelle Chow-Liu
Head of High School Counseling, Western Academy of Beijing
Penn GSE Faculty Elizabeth Heaton
Consultant, Bright Horizons College Coach
Penn GSE Faculty Eric Kaplan
Academic Director, International College Advising Certificate Program
Ed.D. (Higher Education Management) University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Joan Liu
Founder and Executive Director, Second Chance at Higher Education
Penn GSE Faculty Alan R. Ruby
Senior Fellow
Associateship, London Institute of Education
Penn GSE Faculty Laura Severin
University Advisor, Collège du Léman International School