Want to study in the USA? Your guide to getting started.

Want to study in the USA? Your guide to getting started.

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Applying for university or college is a daunting task. There are tests to take, applications to fill out, and research to be done. But, the payoff is an excellent education and an invaluable life experience. The guide below will help you begin the process, which you should do about nine months to a year in advance. 

English language: In order to attend university level classes, your English must be at a certain level. Each school has different requirements, as do certain programs within a university. For example Arizona State University’s Undergraduate Admission requires a minimum TOEFL score of 500, while their School of Engineering requires a minimum TOEFL score of 550. You still have options if your score is low. You can complete an intensive English language program and then apply to university. Or, you can apply for conditional admission if you meet the other admission requirements except English. These are the most widely accepted English assessment tests:

  • GRE (graduate school admission)
  •  Public four-year colleges average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students is $11,528.
  •  Private four-year colleges charge, on average, $26,273.
  •  Public two-year colleges charge, on average, $2,544.

* Verify with schools which test they require. 

Admission: In order to transfer or be admitted to a university, you need to have completed a certain amount of education. According EducationUSA, at a minimum you will need a diploma from a secondary school or equivalent test results. These tests may also be required:

Finances: Do you have enough money to pay for tuition and study abroad? Studying in America can be expensive. These are the annual tuition and fee estimates from College Board:

Don’t forget living expenses, books and recreation (more information here). These numbers may be intimidating, but there are financial aid resources. Students like Abadi obtained scholarships from their home country. The website, Funding U.S. Study, helps international students find financial aid. Apply for as many scholarships as you can before applying for loans. 

Research: What do you want to study? Where do you imagine living? Answering these questions will help you narrow your options. The United States is enormous and diverse. You should feel comfortable at your school. Contact your “wish” list of schools directly by either sending them an inquiry or contacting the admissions office. 

Apply: Now that you understand the schools’ admission requirements and costs, you need to apply! Apply online or print the paper application. Online applications may be timed so have all your documents accessible. Generally, you will need to supply your transcripts, test scores and an essay. You may also need letters of recommendation or an additional essay.Housing: In order to be approved for a student visa you need a place of residence. Many universities have dormitories or apartments. There are also homestay options. Check with the international student office. 

Visa: You will need a student visa (F-1) to study in the USA. The visa application requires financial documents, acceptance letters, proof of living arrangements, etc. Give yourself plenty of time for the application process, especially to prepare for your visa interview. The visa officer will ask you to clearly explain where you will be attending school, what you intend to study and your plans upon completing your U.S. studies. This last part is extremely important. If the visa officer is not confident in your intent to return home, your application could be denied. This is one of the main reasons visas are denied. 

For more information check out the U.S. Department of State’s travel information website.   


Jennifer Privette is an Editor and Assistant Publisher of StudyUSA.com. She received her bachelor's degree in Journalism from Seattle University. She has written for Investigate West and interned for PBS's NewsHour. Her experience and love of the written word have happily brought her to Study in the USA ®. When she's not pounding the keyboard, she's cooking and traveling the globe.