Studying in the US

If you want to study in the US, it is crucial that you find your best fit out of almost 4000 colleges and universities across the country.

Why do you want to study in the US?

American education often attracts foreign students because of a wider range of learning opportunities. The diversity of choices to specialize in a variety of academic disciplines allows students to pursue degrees which can ensure their career advancement and increase their future professional competitiveness worldwide.

Every year around one million international students pursue academic studies at US colleges or universities. Only in 2019, the total number of international students enrolled in US educational institutions was 1,095,299, making up 5.5% of the total US student body.

We are here to help you with the choices, find your best fit and support you along the way to embark on your individual academic journey!

Students in the US are required to go to school between ages 6-18 in grades which run from 1-12. Primary, or elementary, education lasts from 1 to 5 grades, middle school covers 6 to 8 grades, followed by high school education from 9 to 12 grades). There is also kindergarten, for the year before the 1st grade, which is optional in most US states.

After finishing the 12th grade students have two options: vocational training (typically a year or two, designed for immediate employment in a trade) or higher education (typically a two-year associate degree or four-year bachelor’s degree in an academic program).

For students planning to get enrolled in higher education in the United States, US colleges and universities require 12 years of education, or secondary school transcripts to prove completion of the secondary education.

In the US, the words college and university are often used interchangeably for post-secondary institutions. The difference between a college and a university in the U.S. may not always be apparent to students who grew up in other parts of the world. The word "college" doesn't have the same meaning in every country, which can create confusion for prospective international students interested in studying in the US. There are also some called institutes, such as MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) or CIT (California Institute of Technology). In the large universities, such as Harvard University or University of California, there are different colleges or schools that represent different academic areas of study (e.g. College of Engineering at University of California Berkeley, School of Business at Boston University, Art and Design School at Chicago University, etc.).

State and Private Colleges and Universities

It is worth noting that in the US the best colleges or universities may be both private or state (run by the national or regional/state government). The US federal government does not manage any college or university. It is the governments of the individual states that have the authority to fund and operate public colleges and universities within their boundaries. Instead, private colleges mostly operate on their own, without direct control from state or national governments.

Among the top twenty US universities with the most international students (according to the 2019 Open Doors Fast Facts report), 13 are public and seven are private.

Remember! The distinction of the institution is not determined by whether it is public or private. It must fit you personally and meet your expectations.

Community colleges are part of the US post-secondary education, which offer two-year programs leading to Associate degrees (Associate of Arts or Associate of Science). Students studying at Community Colleges can also earn academic credit toward a bachelor’s degree. Earning academic credit at a community college is usually less expensive and can help lower the overall cost of a bachelor’s degree. Community colleges may also have a more flexible admissions process.

Community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities often develop special agreements for the transfer of credits and degrees between the institutions. This process is called “2+2” and at the completion you can earn a bachelor’s degree with two years of community college, followed by two years of university study.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), there are almost “1,200 2-year, associate degree-granting institutions and more than 12 million students” enrolled in these colleges. Approximately 100,000 international students currently attend community colleges in the United States.

There are over 2000 colleges and universities where one can pursue a bachelor's degree in the US. Undergraduate studies can start immediately after completion of the secondary school or even after a gap year.

The US undergraduate bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete and consists of 120-128 semester credit hours, 60 of which may be transferred from an associate degree at a community college, if you have earlier chosen to start with an Associate's degree.

During undergraduate programs students must choose a major to focus on during their academic studies. Your major should be in an academic area that is of great interest to you, and one in which you will likely seek a career in the future. In addition to courses in a major, students take required core curriculum or general education classes that develop critical thinking and communication skills.

There are three most common bachelor’s degrees in the US:
  • BA (Bachelor of Arts) degrees focus on liberal arts majors in humanities and social sciences
  • BS (Bachelor of Science) degrees cover business, math, sciences, engineering, health sciences, and other tech fields
  • BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) degrees align with the creative and visual arts, such as music or dance

There are also other four-year colleges and universities that emphasize preparation for special professional areas, such as pharmacy, engineering, business, agriculture, and other specialized fields.

Meanwhile, degrees in law and medicine are not offered at the undergraduate level in the US. Instead, they are completed as professional study after receiving a bachelor’s degree (at Medical Schools or Law Schools as graduate studies). Neither law nor medical schools require a specific undergraduate major, however, medical schools do have set prerequisite courses that must be taken before enrollment. Undergraduate students who are preparing to attend medical school following their undergraduate careers are known as pre-med.

Remember! Only students who have completed their bachelor’s degree can apply for graduate studies in the US.

In many countries, graduate studies are called post-graduate studies and can take up to five years or more. In the US, the term post-graduate studies can refer to work after a master’s degree program, including studies for a doctoral degree, professional or executive education programs.

The two main graduate degrees in the US are the master’s degree and doctoral degree. Both involve a combination of research and coursework and are characterized by in depth learning and specialized instruction. International students who have finished bachelor’s degrees in their home countries, in the US or third countries may apply to both master and doctoral degrees.

Master’s degrees can require one to two years of study. In the final term of most master’s programs, students must complete a thesis (a large, well-documented research essay) or a project before they will be awarded the master’s degree.

The length of Doctorate programs (PhD) will depend on two things, whether students must first complete a master’s degree in a related field, and how long it takes to complete a dissertation.

In addition to these degree programs, international students may take various other continuing education or certification courses. Some are in addition to degree studies, while others may count toward meeting licensing requirements to work in certain fields.

US colleges and universities might have different application processes, requirements, and deadlines. For international students there are two ways to apply to US colleges and universities: through Common Application process, where first-time and transfer applicants can apply to multiple colleges at once, or directly to the colleges and universities of your choice.

Common Application is accepted by close to 900 US public and private colleges and universities across the states. The Common Application will determine you as an international applicant if your citizenship states so. Currently, more than 250 Common Application colleges do not require an application fee. For the remaining colleges, an application fee would be required.

As an international student you might as well file separate applications to colleges and universities of your preference and work on each application individually meeting the specific requirements listed by a university admission office.

It is crucial to start the application process early and meet the deadlines! Early admission will secure time for financial aid, scholarship and grant applications!

Under the Services section of our website, you can find all the services we are happy to provide along your application process.

The cost of education remains a significant financial challenge for many potential students and their families who intend to pursue degrees in US academic institutions. Decisions on the choice of the institution and its geography are also impacted by the anticipated financial expenses.

In recent years, it has 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 tuition fees and living expenses on their websites.

U.S. News remains one of the most reliable sources of information for assessing the financial costs of US colleges and institutions. According to their last data for 2020-2021, the average cost of tuition and fees at a ranked in-state public college is indicated to be about 72% less than the average cost at a private college (at $9,687 compared with $35,087, respectively). For an international student it is important to note that average cost for out-of-state students, the same as for international students, at public colleges comes to $21,184 for the same year.

An important way for international students to determine a college's affordability is also by evaluating financial aid award packages, as well as considering possibilities for scholarships and grants.