The US remains the world’s leading destination for international students. In 2011-12, around 764,500 international students chose to study in the US, according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report. The most popular states for international study in the US were California, New York and Texas, and the most popular subjects were business and management, engineering, mathematics and computer science.
Lucrative Job Opportunities
On completion of your degree, you are legally authorized to work in the US in your related field for about a year. You need to apply for Optional Practical Training Employment Authorization (OPT). Most international students get inducted into the company that hires them during their OPT period, by sponsoring their H1-B or work visa.
A Unique Higher Education System
U.S. universities and colleges may differ from those in your home country in several ways. For one thing, small class sizes are very common. There may be as few as 10 to 20 students in a class, giving you the personal attention you need in order to succeed. While in class, students are encouraged and expected to contribute to the discussion. Professors meet with students in their offices or even share coffee or meals with them. The close relationship between students and faculty serves to motivate students and fosters a personal approach to the curriculum. Studying in the U.S. gives you the opportunity to gain a mentor in your given career field, an invaluable resource.
Calculate your Own Costs of Studying in US
In recent years it’s become easier for individual students to calculate how much they could expect studying in the US to cost. All US universities are now legally required to include a fees and financial aid calculator on their websites, allowing students to get a rough idea of how much their intended course of study would cost and what aid they may be eligible for. These “net price calculators” can be accessed via the government’s College Affordability and Transparency Center, which also provides details of the US universities with the highest and lowest tuition fees and net costs.
Average fees at US Universities, 2014/15.
Average Living Expenses
The approximate annual living expenses are about $10,000, which includes accommodation as well as other daily expenses. However, the expenses are different for different people depending on the lifestyles and this is just a rough idea. The main expenses can be split up as:
- Rent $ 400 per month
(you can live alone with that amount in a place like Auburn or share an apartment with 6 people in NY)
- Groceries $ 100 per month
- Utilities $ 100 per month
- Phone $ 100 per month
- Sundry $ 200 per month
So, about $1000 per month is a good estimation. Most people can survive with $700-$1000 a month. The key here is to share apartments/houses so that you save on the utilities, fixed charge portion of phone and to some extent on groceries.
Employment as Student
Many students hold on-campus jobs, and work opportunities are nearly always available. Most jobs pay about $7.25 per hour and entail work in a laboratory or in food service. You may be taxed for income earned in the United States. Money is deducted each pay period from most employees’ paychecks for federal and state income taxes. The amount of the deduction varies greatly.
In general terms, students are permitted to work on campus 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semester and 40 hours per week during school breaks when classes are not in session.
The school calendar usually begins in August or September and continues through May or June. The majority of new students begin in autumn, so it is a good idea for international students to also begin their U.S. university studies at this time. There is a lot of excitement at the beginning of the school year and students form many great friendships during this time, as they are all adjusting to a new phase of academic life. Additionally, many courses are designed for students to take them in sequence, starting in autumn and continuing through the year.
The academic year at many schools is composed of two terms called “semesters.” (Some schools use a three-term calendar known as the “trimester” system.) Still, others further divide the year into the quarter system of four terms, including an optional summer session. Basically, if you exclude the summer session, the academic year is either comprised of two semesters or three quarter terms.
US University Applications
Entry requirements for each university are different, but most involve either completing an admissions test or essay, the SAT or ACT admissions tests, and providing recommendation letters from teachers. On top of this, most universities ask for a transcript of your grades and a personal statement.
Typical Application Requirements
- A completed application form
- Application fee ($50-100 per university)
- Admissions exam scores
- 2-3 essays
- 2-3 letters of reference
- Interview (for some universities)
English Language Requirements
All applicants (including US citizens) whose first language is not English can prove English proficiency by one of the following:
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) – TOEFL code 5007Internet based test (iBT) score of 80 or higher.* (Sub-scores for each section of the TOEFL should be 20 or higher.)Paper-based test score of 550 or higher
- IELTS (International English Language Testing System)Composite score of 6.5 or higher. (Sub-scores for each section of the IELTS should be 6.0 or higher.)
- Pearson Test of English (PTE) Score of 53 or higher
- SAT Critical Reading score of 530 or higher
**English speaking countries include: UK, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada (except Quebec).
Graduate school applicants who have completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited institution in the English Speaking Country may be exempt from the English-language proficiency test requirement.
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) iBT: Score 100 or higher (600 on the paper-based test)
- IELTS (International English Language Testing System) – Score 7.0 or higher
Universities will offer a variety of application deadline types. Most universities offer one early deadline type (early action, restrictive early action or early decision) plus regular decision deadlines. However, always check the university’s admissions page for full details.
- Rolling admissions – Students can apply over a set period of time (typically August to spring), and admission decisions will be made on a rolling basis. It is still suggested that applicants still apply early (October/November) if possible. This type of deadline is non-binding and non-restrictive.
- Regular decision – Students typically apply by 1 January in anticipation of an admissions decision by 1 April. This type of deadline is non-binding and non-restrictive. Students may apply to as many universities in the US as they choose under regular decision policies.
- Early action – Students typically apply by 1 November in anticipation of an admissions decision by 15 December. This type of deadline is non-binding AND non-restrictive. Students may apply to as many universities in the US as they choose under early action policies.
- Restrictive early action (Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale) – Like early action, students typically apply by 1 November in anticipation of an admissions decision by 15 December. This type of deadline is non-binding.
- However, check for restrictions in the university policies on whether you can apply to other universities while you have a restrictive early action application out. Generally speaking, you can only apply to one university restrictive early action, and this will be your only early application in the US. There may be exceptions in the university policy (check on their admissions page) such as allowing you to apply early to state universities with a non-binding, rolling admissions policy or to universities where the university application is considered for scholarships must be submitted earlier than 15 December.
- Early decision – There are two early decision deadlines, ED1 in November and the slightly less common ED2 in January. These are more common at private liberal arts colleges. Like early action, ED1 students typically apply by 1 November in anticipation of an admissions decision by 15 December.
- Early decision applications are binding. You should think very carefully before applying to a university early decision. You, your school and your parents will sign an early decision agreement, certifying that you understand the terms of early decision: The early decision university should be your first choice (worldwide) and if accepted, you will withdraw all other applications (worldwide) and attend that university. The only exception is if you apply for financial aid and do not receive sufficient aid to take up your offer.
- You may only submit one early decision application in the ED1 and/or ED2 rounds. You should certainly apply to other universities in the UK at the same time to keep all options open, but know that you will need to decline your UCAS offers if admitted early decision in the US.
- Early decision is also somewhat restrictive in that, you cannot apply to more than one university early decision, but you may be able to apply to others early action at the same time. (Unless as stated above, the university you would like to apply to via early action has restrictions.)
Types of Student Visa
Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. You must have a student visa to study in the United States. Your course of study and the type of school you plan to attend determine whether you need an F-1 visa or an M-1 visa.
This type of US student visa is for international students who are intending to pursue an academic degree at an accredited US college or university, or to study English at a university or intensive English language institute. There are three types of F visa:
- F-1 visas for full-time students.
- F-2 visas for dependents of F-1 visa holders (spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21). This includes same-sex married couples.
- F-3 visas for ‘border commuters’ – Mexican and Canadian students who reside in their country of origin while attending part- or full-time school in the US.
Students with F-1 visas can work on-campus for 20 hours a week or less. Students wishing to work longer hours and off-campus must gain prior authorization from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – they may also grant work authorization for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) for a total of twelve months, without accruing more than 90 days of unemployment.
The second category of US student visa is for international students who want to engage in non-academic or vocational study or training at an institution in the US. There are three types of M visa:
- M-1 visas for students engaging in vocational or non-academic studies.
- M-2 visas for dependents of M-1 visa holders (as in F-2 visas).
- M-3 visas for ‘border commuters’ as in F-3 visas, but for vocational or non-academic studies.
M-1 students are admitted to the US for a fixed time period – the length of their training program plus any Optional Practical Training. They must not stay in the US for longer than one year except in the case of extensions due to medical reasons. M-1 visa holders are not allowed to work on- or off-campus while studying and may not change their status to F-1.
Finally, this third type of US student visa is for international exchange visitors participating in programs in the US that promote cultural exchange. Whether it is to obtain medical, business or other training, all applicants must meet the eligibility criteria of the program in question and be sponsored by a private sector or government program. Holders of J visas usually stay in the US for a short period of time, perhaps one or two semesters. There are two types of J visa:
- J-1 visas for exchange students on a relevant exchange program.
- J-2 visas for dependants of J-1 visa holders (as for F-2 visas).
Student Acceptance at a SEVP Approved School
Before you can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an F or M student visa, you must first apply to and be accepted by a SEVP approved school. Visit the Department of State EducationUSA website to learn about educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate study, opportunities for scholars, admissions, and more. You can also visit the DHS Study in the States school search page to search for SEVP-certified schools.
When you are accepted by the U.S. school you plan to attend, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You must pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee. The U.S. school will provide you with a Form I-20 to present to the consular officer when you attend your visa interview. If your spouse and/or children intend to reside with you in the United States while you study, they must obtain individual Form I-20s, but they do not pay the SEVIS fee. Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website to learn more about SEVIS and the SEVIS I-901 Fee.
You must have adequate, demonstrable financial support to live and study in the United States. Visa applications are generally stronger if the financial support comes from family, employers, or other institutional sponsors located in the home country.
- *All fees are estimated in U.S. dollars and are subject to change.
- **Includes estimated on-campus room, board, transportation and personal expenses for 9 months.
- ***For dependents, add an additional $7,000 per year for a spouse dependent and $4,500 per year for each child dependent.
Required Financial Documents Need to Receive i-20
Your financial support can come from any combination of the following sources (please see “Acceptable Documents” section, below ) in the U.S. or abroad. It is highly recommended that some or all funding come from your home country and immediate family support is preferable to friends or distant relatives.
All documents submitted must meet the following requirements:
- Dated no more than four months prior to the submission of this form
- In English
- Original financial documents: Documents will not be returned. Please note: you may need to take them to your visa appointment at the American Embassy or Consulate Office so please make arrangements for duplicate copies.
Acceptable Proof of Financial Documents.
If you are paying all expenses with personal funds (“self-sponsoring”) you must submit:
- A personal bank statement(s) for last six (6) months showing regular deposits and it must show enough cash to support yourself for your entire program of study
- 2-3 years for graduate students, depending on credits in program; 4 years for undergraduate students; add one year if conditionally admitted
If you have a family member or other individual sponsor you, you must submit the following:
- Each sponsor’s bank statement showing one full year of expenses dated no more than four months prior to the submission of this form
- Each sponsor must sign the Affidavit of Support (page 6): use additional pages if necessary
- It is recommended to submit our signed form. Notarized statement(s) are not preferred.
If you have an Organizational or Governmental Sponsorship, you must submit all the following:
- Copy of the Award Letter from the organization on official letterhead. The letter must specify the amount of money that is being provided to you and that the award is valid for each year of study
- For non-governmental awards, you must also provide a bank statement or bank letter validating that all funds detailed in the Award Letter are available for disbursement to the University
If you received Scholarships and/or grants from University, you must submit the following:
- Copy of Award Letter(s)
- If you received one with your letter of acceptance, it must be signed and returned.
Visa Application Procedure
There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you intend to apply.
Complete the Online Visa Application
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 – Learn more about completing the DS-160. You must: 1) complete the online visa application and 2) print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
- Photo –You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Your photo must be in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
Schedule an Interview
While interviews are generally not required for applicants of certain ages outlined below, consular officers have the discretion to require an interview of any applicant, regardless of age.
You must schedule an appointment for your visa interview, generally, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. You may schedule your interview at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but be aware that it may be difficult to qualify for a visa outside of your place of permanent residence.
Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early. Review the interview wait time for the location where you will apply:
Prepare for Your Interview
- Fees – Pay the non-refundable visa application fee $160 , if you are required to pay it before your interview. When your visa is approved, you may also pay a visa issuance fee, if applicable to your nationality.
- Review the instructions available on the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply to learn more about fee payment.
Gather Required Documentation
Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:
- Passport valid for travel to the United States – Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person who needs a visa must submit a separate application.
- Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page
- Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview
- Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
- Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students, Form I-20A-B or Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students, Form I-20M-N – Your school will send you a SEVIS-generated Form I-20 once they have entered your information in the SEVIS database. You and your school official must sign the Form I-20. All students, their spouse and minor children if they intend to reside in the United States with the student, must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS). Each person receives an individual Form I-20.
Additional Documentation May Be Required
Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply. Additional documents may be requested to establish that you are qualified. For example, additional requested documents may include evidence of:
- Your academic preparation, such as:
- Transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended; and
- Standardized test scores required by your U.S. school;
- Your intent to depart the United States upon completion of the course of study; and
- How you will pay all educational, living and travel costs.
Attend Your Visa Interview
- During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa, and if so, which visa category is appropriate based on your purpose of travel. You will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive the category of visa for which you are applying.
- Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.
- After your visa interview, your application may require further administrative processing. You will be informed by the consular officer if further processing is necessary for your application.
- When the visa is approved, you may pay a visa issuance fee if applicable to your nationality, and will be informed how your passport with visa will be returned to you. Review the visa processing time, to learn how soon your passport with visa will generally be ready for pick-up or delivery by the courier.
Bringing your Dependants
International students are allowed to bring dependants by obtaining a F-2 Visa. Following mandatory documents are required.
- One Photograph
- Confirmation page of online submitted Form DS-160 with CEAC bar code.
- Visa Fees to be paid in advance before taking an appointment.
- Original interview appointment letter and one copy.
- Both pages of the bar coded, original SEVIS generated Form I-20
- All students, as well as their spouse and dependant children must be registered in SEVIS.
- Copy of Form I-20
- Original proof of payment of SEVIS Fee Receipt I-901 and one copy, if applicable
- Photocopies of the first page, address page and last page of your current passport.
- A copy of the Form I-20 of the principal applicant.
- Photocopy of the Principal Applicant’s valid visa (if applying separately).
- Original marriage certificate for spouse along with entire wedding photo album.
- Additionally, it would be helpful to provide genuine marriage proof.
- Wedding invitation card.
- Original birth certificate for each child.
- Photocopies of the first page, last page and remarks pages of your current passport.
- Additional financial resources to support the dependants during the primary applicant’s entire course of study.
- If applying separately, a good quality photocopy of the original of the primary applicant’s passport all pages. The copy should be of good quality and the photo must be clearly identifiable.
Applicants should apply at the consular section of the American Embassy any working day, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:30 and 10:00 AM.
Find a Place to Study & Live in the US
If have decided to study in the USA. Next, you have another important decision to make: where is the best place for you to live? This leads to many other questions, such as should you live on-campus or off-campus or is there a housing residency requirement at your university? Our map will give your a good view of University locations in UA.