As the sun sinks lower into the sky earlier and earlier the time to go back to school draws closer. Even if you’re not beginning university in the USA this fall, school is in the air and it’s a great time to start thinking and planning to study in the USA.
The question is how do you get started. Some of you may know the exact university in the U.S. you want to attend and what you want to study – great! Or, you have no idea what you want to study or the school to attend. This is okay – promise!
Here are some tips on how to study in the USA …
Step 1: Know Yourself and Prioritize
The first thing you need to do is figure out where you want to go to school. When beginning your school search, start with what you do know about yourself. This can give you some direction and narrow down your search.
Ask yourself questions like these:
What are my career goals?
What do I want to study?
Do I need to learn English or improve before beginning university courses?
Where do I want to live?
What kind of educational experience do I want to have? Are social and cultural experiences important too?
Do I excel in a learning environment with fewer students?
Is cost an issue?
Do I have a religious affiliation that needs to be considered?
As an international student, you must also consider these questions:
Are the American universities’ or colleges’ degree programs recognized by my country’s government?
Does my home country impose any regulations with respect to studying in the United States?
Think about all those questions? Good, now you need to prioritize what’s important to you and your family. When you’re writing your list remember to be realistic and open-minded.
Step 2: Research and Pick Schools
In order to be realistic and flexible you should know your options. There are thousands of universities and colleges in the United States. And there are good choices for just about everyone, from community colleges to career schools to private, liberal arts colleges to large, public universities. The ivy leagues aren’t the only universities with stellar programs. And don’t forget about English language programs. This might be where you need to start your higher education career.
Here are some fantastic resources to get you started:
Your local EducationUSA Advising Office
Study in the USA magazines
Attend higher education fairs in your country or virtual fairs
University and college websites
Your high school counselor
U.S. News and World Report
American newspapers and news websites
Pick 5-10 schools to which to apply. Always, always read their admission requirements before applying.
Step 3: Register and Take Admission Tests
Here’s where things can get tricky: admission tests. Most universities and colleges will require the SAT or ACT and the IELTS or TOEFL scores as part of your application, and those scores play a large role in determining whether you are accepted into their programs. Keep in mind that every institution, as well as specific programs within those institutions, will have different score requirements.
Some community colleges and language programs do not require admission test scores to apply. This is where you need to be flexible with where you are at. If your scores are low, maybe you need to attend an intensive English language program, or attend a community college and then transfer to a university. Be open-minded!
*Think you’ll need financial assistance and/or scholarships, jump to Step: 5!
Step 4: Apply!
Completing applications can be a lot of work, but the process is so much easier—and faster—if you gather everything needed for the application before you get started. In general, the following is required, but not always …
Official high school (secondary school) transcripts in English
Mid-year grade report
Test scores (i.e. SAT, ACT, TOEFL, IELTS, etc.)
Letters of recommendation
Many universities and colleges will tell you what information you will need before applying, do yourself a favor and read this! Once you have everything, find a quiet place, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and start applying.
Step 5: Money, Money, Money
Unfortunately, it makes the world go round and you need it to attend school in the USA. American schools can be quite expensive. If you think you will need financial assistance, do not apply to universities that don’t offer financial assistance or scholarships to international students. Each school will have instructions for applying for scholarships or aid.
Once you’ve been accepted to the university of your choice, soon after you will have to pay your deposit for the upcoming term.
Step 6: Apply for Your Student Visa
Once you’ve been accepted by a SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) school or program, they will send you an I-20 form to complete. With that form you can apply for your student visa online. Then, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee and schedule your visa interview. Those are the basics and you can find more information here.
Step 7: Prepare for Departure
Yippee! You’re almost there! Before beginning your studies in the USA you will need to make travel arrangements, living arrangements (you’re already on a great website for resources!), get inoculations, obtain health insurance, have your finances set up to pay for tuition and expenses, and pack.
With all this advice, one of the most important pieces is to talk to the university and international student advisors at your soon-to-be university or college throughout this process. They want to help you, they want you to attend their programs, and they want to make your transition as smooth as possible. Good luck!