Studying in the United States

Studying in the United States

With one of the largest and most respected systems of higher education in the world, there are numerous opportunities for international students who wish to study in United States. What is important is finding the perfect institution for you.

Getting Started

If you are thinking of applying to an institution of higher education in the United States it is important to plan ahead and begin the application process early. It is generally recommended that applicants begin researching schools 12 to 18 months prior to the academic year in which they hope to enroll. This will allow you ample time to decide what you are looking for in a school, where you want to study, what you want to study, and to complete all applications before their deadlines.

Before searching databases for colleges or universities it is important to know what you hope to get out of your U.S. education. Which field of study are you most interested in? Is there a particular location in the U.S. where you would like to study? Is cost an important factor for you? What size of school would you like to attend? There are over 4000 colleges and universities in the U.S. and by answering these questions you will be able to narrow that list.

Once you have thought about what you hope to accomplish by studying in the U.S., it is time to begin researching schools. Please go to our Student Resources page for a list of databases that can help you find schools. Most American students are advised to apply to 6-10 schools: 3 schools that are “reaches,” 3-4 schools that are “matches” and 2-3 “safety” schools. By applying to schools of all levels you are enabling yourself to be accepted into the best possible school while still having fallback options.

The Application Process

Once you have finalized the list of schools you will apply to, it is essential that you research the application requirements for each school that you will apply to. Application requirements can vary greatly and if you forget even one requirement when you send in the application it is likely that the application will be denied.

Also make sure you are familiar with the application deadlines for every school on your list. There are generally three kinds of admissions deadlines: Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Admission (Some schools have two separate Early Decision and Early Action deadlines). The application deadlines for Early Decision and Early Action are generally in November or December and Regular Decision deadlines fall between January and March. Some schools have rolling Regular Admission, where you can apply all year long.

The majority of schools have four general application requirements:

The first is the submittal of your educational credentials: your secondary school diploma and transcripts along with any final national exams in your country. If your educational credentials are not English, you will have to have them translated and then submitted along with the official translation. When submitting your records as an international student it is important to understand the institution’s policy on evaluating foreign academic credentials. Some schools employ their own specialists in credential evaluation while others instruct applicants to have their credentials evaluated by an independent organization. Make sure you ask the admissions office which evaluation service is right for you.

The second is standardized test scores: either the SAT or the ACT is usually required for admission into undergraduate programs and graduate schools usually require either the GMAT or the GRE. Students whose native language is not English will also have to take either the TOEFL or the IELTS to demonstrate their English language proficiency. There are other specialized tests that are required for professional programs such as law or medicine.

You will also be required to submit recommendation letters from teachers, counselors, tutors, coaches, or employers. Most schools require between 1-3 letters of recommendation and it is important that you choose someone that knows you well so they can accurately portray you.

The final general application requirement is the essay. This is one of the most important parts of your application. It is your opportunity to highlight your strengths and interests as well as to showcase your writing ability. The number of essays that are required varies greatly from one school to another but generally fall in the 1-3 range.


Depending on the school and which application you have submitted, the application review process usually runs between 2-4 months. It is the job of an institution’s admissions office to review a student’s application and make final decisions as to the acceptance, deferral, or denial of acceptance. Once the institution has thoroughly reviewed your application they will send you a letter that will tell you whether or not you have been accepted into their program.