Accepting International Students into an ACEND-Accredited Program
ACEND Program Director Guidance for Accepting International Students
Accepting international students has many benefits for ACEND-accredited programs, including enhancing learning of various cultures for all members of your program cohorts, increasing enrollment, and adding to the diversity of your campus. Potential students may come through several routes—applying to undergraduate programs from high school or the equivalent in their country; applying with a previous university degree obtained in their home country; and/or applying with a nutrition and dietetics credential from their home country. Review ACEND's guidance to better understand key concepts around accepting international students.*
*Please note that this resource is a supplement to any documentation provided by your institutions' international student office and does not address all international student circumstances.
Step 1: Investigate university policies around International Students
As program director, it will be important to gain understanding of your institution's policies and status associated with accepting international students as this information will help you field questions from prospective students. Questions to ask your administration or office of international affairs include:
- Does the institution accept international students? Is it a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified school?
- Does the institution accept transfer credits from international degrees, or will an applicant have to complete an entire course of study if admitted?
- Does the institution require a specific Foreign Degree Evaluation agency to be used for international degree assessment? You will want to make sure that at least one required agency aligns with those required by CDR.
- How is your program designated by USDE? This may change how much Optional Practice Training (OPT) is allow for international students, which is important for supervised practice programs. Some ACEND programs have reported success with being designated as STEM programs to maximize OPT.
Step 2: Identify applicant background
International applicants will typically fall into two categories:
- Category 1: those who wish to apply to a full course of study without any prior degree or credentialing.
- Category 2: those who have an international degree and/or wish to have prior learning or experience evaluated.
ACEND advises that programs direct applicants in Category 1 to the institution's admissions office for further assistance. The rest of this guidance will focus on Category 2 applicants. Students who have a degree from a non-ACEND-accredited international program, and/or hold a nutrition credential from a different country, almost always need to complete ACEND-accredited programs, such as a DPD + DI, CP or GP, prior to being eligible to sit for the RDN exam (for CDR's reciprocity exceptions, click here and see Options 6 and 7).
The rest of this guidance will focus on Category 2 applicants. Students who have a degree from a non-ACEND-accredited international program, and/or hold a nutrition credential from a different country, almost always need to complete ACEND-accredited programs, such as a DPD + DI, CP or GP, prior to being eligible to sit for the RDN exam (for CDR's reciprocity exceptions, click here and see Options 6 and 7).
Step 3: Determine whether the student is an FDE graduate
First, determine if the student completed an ACEND-accredited Foreign Dietitian Education (FDE) program. To find a list of ACEND-accredited FDEs, use the Accredited Programs Directory. If the student has an international degree from an FDE and was issued a Verification Statement, accept the FDE verification Statement as you would a DPD verification statement and follow your university’s guidelines for accepting international degrees (NOTE: the FDE degree has already been evaluated as equivalent to a U.S. degree by ACEND). If the student does not have an FDE Verification Statement, continue to Step 4.
Step 4: Confirm the applicant's eligibility for the program
Based on the information gathered in step 1, explain to the applicant what will be required of them by the university to enter the program. Engage your institution’s admissions or international affairs office as appropriate. Before moving forward, set expectations about your program’s prior learning assessment policy. Please note that, depending on the applicant's visa type or if they are a permanent resident in the United States, the program may have to complete an entire course of study rather than having prior learning shorten their time in the program.
Step 5: Provide information about foreign degree evaluation
Ask if the student has had their degrees evaluated by one of CDR's approved foreign degree evaluation agencies. If your institution requires the use of specific foreign degree evaluation agencies, explain this to the student as well. Best practice is for the student to use an agency that is approved by CDR and the institution, if applicable.
If the student has not had their degree evaluated, please ask them to do so prior to moving forward.
- The list of agencies can be found on ACEND's website. The student can contact an agency to inquire about current information and cost for evaluating transcripts.
- A detailed course-by-course evaluation will be most useful to you as a Program Director, so please make sure the student obtains this type of report.
- The report must state whether the degree is equivalent to a US Bachelor's, Masters or Doctoral degree from a US regionally-accredited university.
If the applicant has had their degrees evaluated by an agency approved by CDR and the institution, if applicable, provide the following information to the applicant before agreeing to review their degree and transcript:
- If you have not already, set expectations about your program’s prior learning assessment policy; if your program policy states that you will not accept prior learning or if your university requires a minimum number of hours to be completed at the university prior to receiving a verification statement, it is helpful to provide this information early in the communication process with the student.
- Give the student a timeline for when you plan to have the degree evaluated.
- If your program is not local, ensure that the student can relocate if the program takes place on site and that the student is able to travel to supervised practice sites as needed.
- If you have a distance program, there may be restrictions in the number of hours the student can participate in to maintain their visa. Contact your institution's international student department to discuss these restrictions and what options the student may have.
Step 6: Review the applicant’s degree for prior learning, if applicable
If the student still wishes to pursue applying to your program, ask for a copy of the degree evaluation report for review. When reviewing the evaluated transcript, the program should treat it as they would any transcript received from a US college or university. You may need to ask for additional information from the applicant, such as translated course descriptions or syllabi. This video (start at minute 4:33) provides guidance on transcript evaluation. Once the transcript is reviewed, it is up to the program to determine the equivalency to their program, which courses to accept, and what the student has left to complete according to the program’s assessment of prior learning policy.
Step 7: Provide a proposed curriculum plan
Once the transcript evaluation is complete, provide the student with the curriculum plan, and work with your university’s international student department to facilitate the student’s acceptance into the college or university and the program.
Resources about Visas for International Students and Interns
One hurdle for enrolling international students and interns into ACEND®-accredited programs is helping these individuals secure a visa so that they may stay in the United States during their education. ACEND has identified three types of visas that may be applicable to international students in ACEND-accredited programs:
F-1: Visas for academic students working towards a degree. Institutions must be approved to provide these visas.
M-1: Visas for individuals in non-academic/vocational settings. Institutions must be approved to provide these visas.
- The F-1 and M-1 visas may be best suited for students and interns working within a university or technical school setting. To find out if your institution is approved to provide either or both of these visas, you can search on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website.
- More details on F-1 and M-1 visas.
H-3: Visas for trainees in any field of endeavor, other than graduate medical education or training, that is not available in the noncitizen's home country.
- This visa could apply to students coming from a country where there are no ACEND-accredited programs and are best suited for free-standing dietetic internships. The sponsoring ACEND program begins by accepting the intern in the program and then submits Form I-129 with supporting documentation on behalf of the applicant to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- More details on H-3 visas.
There may be other visas applicable to international students applying to ACEND-accredited programs. We encourage university-based programs to consult the department at their institution that works with international students (e.g. Office of International Affairs, International Admissions Office) to learn more. For programs without support for international students/interns, more information about visas can be found at the USCIS website, Temporary Worker page or Student and Exchange Student page.
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