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Why Study in the USA?

With around 4,500 higher education institutions, all providing world-class degree programmes, it is no wonder that just over 1.1 million international students choose the US as their study destination each year. Higher education is delivered in institutions referred to as colleges, which are split into two main types. Public colleges are state-funded, have lower tuition fees and a larger capacity for students. Private colleges are funded by donations, tuition fees and grants, meaning that they have higher tuition fees, but fewer students.

Many of the colleges or universities in the US are leaders in numerous ranking tables. This means that a qualification earned at a US institution will be highly regarded by employers worldwide. In the 2023 QS World University rankings, the US has 5 institutions in the top 10. It also occupies 26 spots in the top 100. The highest ranked university is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which takes first place. It is followed by Stanford University and Harvard University in third and fifth place respectively.

About the USA

With a population of nearly 327 million people, and spanning six time zones, America is the world’s third largest country (excluding Antarctica). It is composed of 50 states, one federal district, and five major self-governing territories. Bordered by Mexico and Canada, the US covers 3.8 million square miles, which makes it only slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. Consistently named as one of the world’s richest countries, the US offers many opportunities for international students.

Due to its vast land mass, the terrain and climate are both varied. You will find beautiful sandy beaches, rugged snowy mountains, hot barren deserts, and modern metropolitan cities. There are higher education institutions across the country, meaning that you will be able to study in the perfect environment for you. The US is a leading political, cultural and scientific force internationally, and has been at the forefront of many modern discoveries and developments.

A view of New York City skyscrapers from across the Hudson River
New York City, a major study destination and tourist attraction in the United States

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Cost of Studying and Living in the United States

The currency used in the US is the United States Dollar (USD/$).

Due to its popularity as an international study destination, America is among the most expensive countries for international students. However, you will be receiving high quality education from world renowned institutions. Depending on your course of study or degree programme, you can expect to pay between $5,000 and $60,000 per academic year. The average annual tuition fees are around $30,000 for international students, with a postgraduate degree costing more than an undergraduate degree.

Your cost of living will be highly dependent on the area in which you choose to study. If you choose to live in a big city such as New York City or Los Angeles, this will cost more than a smaller city or town. You should budget between $1,000 and $5,000 per month. This should cover your rent and utilities, groceries, travel and any additional study expenses.

Although the US is known for its higher tuition fees, international students also have access to financial help. Some universities might offer scholarships to cover your entire course costs, or contribute to overall costs. These scholarships are normally awarded for academic or sport excellence, as well as lower income families. If you cannot get a scholarship, you may be eligible for financial aid. Check out our scholarships and funding section for more information.

As well as tuition fees and living costs, you should be aware that you need to purchase health insurance for the duration of your studies in America. There is no national health provider, as the health system is private. If you do not have health insurance, any medical attention you might require will be extremely expensive. Your institution will be able to provide you with more information about this.

Funding to study in the USA

As as international student wishing to study in the US, you may be eligible to apply for some form of financial assistance. These can be awarded for sports or academic excellence, as well as to lower income families. If you cannot gain a scholarship, you may be able to access financial aid.

For more information about what kinds of scholarships and financial aid are available, you should get in contact with your institution of choice. They should be able to provide you with more information about what your options are, as well as how to apply, and any additional requirements that may be relevant.

Find out more about funding your studies in our Funding and Scholarships for International Students advice article.

How to Apply

There is no centralised application system in the US, and the application process can be long and intensive. It is recommended that you start the process early, so that you allow time for each step involved.

You will need to apply to each institution individually, and will likely need to take an entrance exam, normally the ACT or SAT. There may also be other requirements, such as proof of sufficient funding, and proof of health insurance. For more information about what is required of you, how to apply and any deadlines that may be relevant, please contact your chosen institution.

Want to study abroad but not sure on how to begin? Take a look at our advice article on Deciding to study abroad: The first steps.

USA Student Visas

Any international student wishing to study in the USA will be required to obtain a student visa. This will be an F-1 or M-1 visa, depending on the type of institution you will be studying at. If you wish to study at a university or academic institution, you will need to obtain an F-1 visa. If you wish to study a course that is not principally academic, or is offered at a vocational institution, such as a business school, you will need to obtain an M-1 visa. You will need to have been accepted by an approved institution before you are able to apply for a visa. You will then need to register with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), and this generally costs $200. As part of the visa application process, you will need to make an appointment for an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate in your country.

For information about the location of your local embassy, as well as more detailed information about student visas, please visit the US Embassy website.


The US does not have an official language, but its national language is English. However, due to the diverse nature of the USA, you will hear a wide range of other languages being spoken.

Courses at American universities are taught in English. It is likely that you will be required to provide evidence of your English language proficiency as part of your application. The level of language proficiency will depend on where you choose to study. If you do not meet the required standards for your course, it is common for institutions to offer English language courses to help you improve.

If your native language is not English, you should make the most of your opportunity to learn a language as you study. Communicating with locals and other students is the perfect way to practice. Having advanced ability in English is a great skill to add to your CV/resume.


New York City

With a population of over 8.62 million, New York City is the largest city in the US. It is also one of the world’s most populous megacities, and a global power city. It is regularly described as the cultural, financial and media capital of the world. It is home to the headquarters of the United Nations, making it an important centre for international diplomacy.

Located in the city are more than 120 higher education institutions. These include traditional academic universities such as Columbia University, State University of New York (SUNY), and New York University. You will also find other special-purpose institutions, such as the Juilliard School (performing arts conservatory), Parsons School of Design (art and design college), and Pratt Institute (architecture and design school).

San Francisco

Home to almost 900,000 people, San Francisco is located on the west coast of America. A historically progressive city, San Francisco has been at the centre of liberal activism in the US, witnessing many movements and protests. Known for its steep hills, cable cars, eclectic architecture, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz Prison, the city attracts many tourists. It hosts a wide range of multinational company headquarters, such as Reddit, Airbnb, Fitbit and Levi Strauss & Co.

In the city, you will find around 25 higher education institutions. These include the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), San Francisco State University, Golden Gate University, and the San Francisco Art Institute. There are a mixture of public and private institutions.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, also known as L.A., is home to around 4 million people. The city is well known for its warm climate, Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and its ethnic diversity. Throughout history, Los Angeles has played host to a range of international events, including the Summer Olympics twice, and has been confirmed as the host of the 2028 games.

There are many public and private institutions located in the city. Due to the entertainment industry mainly residing in L.A., there are a large amount of Arts schools. Colleges and universities include University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Marymount College, University of Southern California (USC), and the Los Angeles Film School.

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