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How to Apply to Universities in the USA as an International Student

For those choosing to study abroad, the United States can offer a variety of options to help take your university experience to the next level. If you know you’d like to study abroad, figuring out how to apply is one of the first steps, and we’re here to help you get started.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Study Abroad
How to Apply to Universities in the USA as an International Student

Find your school

Get started by researching which universities and colleges in the United States accept international students. Start by checking out the websites of the universities in the city you hope to study in, and look for the degree you would like to earn. Then, you can determine if the school accepts international students and the services and conditions on offer. Reach out to the school’s admissions office to learn more about what you can expect during the application process, and what you will need to do to complete an application package.

Get prepared

Most universities in the United States require tests such as the SAT, GMAT, or ACT for entry. International students will also need to pass an English language proficiency exam. Get started by registering for your admissions tests, and then you can start studying. Exam scores will be sent to the schools you plan on applying to. Once you know your test date, you can start preparing for the exam by creating a study schedule, and find test preparation materials.

Understand the application process

As each university in the United States has its own standards and process for admissions, it can be a bit of work to get it all completed. Therefore, it’s important to schedule yourself enough time to get the process started early so you aren’t rushing to get things finished. As reports, “For schools with competitive admissions, the application process takes a significant amount of time and effort.” Students should start doing their research and planning their application process within a year of when they plan to attend university.

Review each school you plan on applying to’s admission guidelines to best understand what you will need to do and when. As mentioned above, there will likely be standardized tests to prepare for and to take. You’ll also have to fill out application forms, provide various documentation such as your high school or college transcripts and immunization records, as well as write an admissions essay. There might be other things specific to each institution you’ll need to complete as well.

How to pay for it

Attending university can be expensive, especially when attending abroad. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you get your finances in order before you apply. You should work with the university to see what resources are offered to international students. There are several organizations that offer scholarships and financial support to international students, so start applying to those as soon as possible. Your school’s international affairs office or financial aid office might have some ideas for resources to pursue as well.

In addition to figuring out how to pay for college, you might want to consider schools that are affordable. You’ll still get a great education, but you won’t go into a large amount of debt to get it. Some more cost-effective schools for international students include Ivy League schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale Universities. In addition to helping international students find ways to pay for their education, these institutions are dedicated to helping students find their place and adjust well to education in the United States. For those not planning to go Ivy league, there are still a ton of great institutions that are affordable, and dedicated to helping international students make the most of their time abroad. Columbia University, Skidmore College, and Amherst College are some of the schools that offer the most financial assistance to international students as well.

Choosing to study abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences for an international student, and when you head Stateside, your education is sure to be top notch. To keep stress to a minimum, and make sure you’re as prepared as you can be, start early, do your research, and make your plans. Give yourself plenty of time to explore your options, study hard, and you’re sure to do great.

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Chelsea Castonguay


Chelsea is a Student Affairs expatriate, who now works as a freelance writer and editor. She homesteads in a small town in rural Maine, USA. She enjoys hiking, fishing, cooking, reading, all things Laura Ingalls Wilder, spending time with her family, and chasing her black lab puppy, Cash.

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