Applying to college in the U.S. as an international student


Going to college is a big deal. Choosing to go to college in another country is huge. If your student is considering studying in the U.S., we’ve got lots of tips on what they should do to prepare.

Figure out how to pay for it

In most cases, international students can’t get U.S. federal student aid, but there are exceptions. Your student’s best bet is to look into available scholarships, both private and through the school or program they are interested in attending. They should also see if their home country offers any financial assistance for studying in another country.

Research schools

Your student should start looking at schools beginning with their desired major. Which schools offer their major? Is the major ranked highly? Is the school affordable? When they start narrowing down which school can give them the best academic experience, they should narrow down further by school location. Is the climate desirable? Does the location make it easy to travel back home? They should also consider other things about the school such as its diversity and support resources for international students.

Review application deadlines and semester start dates

Your student should take note of application and other deadlines, as well as semester start dates at all the schools they are interested in attending. These dates can vary widely by school, so it’s important that they are aware of the deadlines so they don’t miss anything.

Learn about college entrance exams and requirements

Some undergraduate colleges require entrance exams such as the ACT or SAT. Graduate schools may require specialized tests depending on the program as well as letters of recommendation or an essay for admission. Be sure your student reviews and understands the exact requirements for admission to each school they are interested in.

Meet language requirements

Most schools require students whose native language is not English to show that they are proficient in English by taking an exam. There are several exams out there and each school may accept different ones, so your student should check English proficiency requirements at their school of choice. Some common tests include the International English Language Testing System exam (IELTS), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the C1 Advanced.

Send transcripts

Your student’s college of choice will likely want to see your student’s transcripts from all previous schools they attended. Check the school’s website for exactly what they require and where to send it. Since schools usually want an "official" transcript, their guidelines are quite specific. You may need to use a transcript evaluation service from a reputable third-party agency to confirm subjects across countries.

Submit the application

Once all these steps are complete, your student should be ready to submit their application for admission. The application generally requires them to fill out a lot of information and usually includes an application fee. Once their application is submitted, your student may have to wait several weeks or more for an admission decision.

Prepare to come to the U.S.

After they are accepted by a college and they choose to attend, your student needs to prepare to come to the U.S. This means they’ll need a student visa, and the type of visa they get will vary depending on the type of student they are (e.g., student admitted to a college, student in an educational exchange program, etc.). This will require them to obtain either an I-20 or a DS-2019. Also, keep in mind that most international students are required by law to show that they can pay for college.

After following these steps, your student can begin enrolling in classes and start their college adventure in the United States.