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Study in California, the USA

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The Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic suspension bridge located in San Francisco, Southern California.

Why Study in California?

California is a large state on the western coast of the United States of America, with a total population of nearly 40 million residents. California would be the world’s fifth largest economy if it were a country, and this fact shows the massive financial and industrial strengths of various sectors across the state such as finance, retail, manufacturing and trade.

Five of the world’s ten largest companies are headquartered in California, and the state is home to one of the largest number of employers worldwide. Just the Southern Californian city of Los Angeles itself, for instance, forms an economy worth over a trillion dollars! While regions of California such as Silicon Valley are global hubs for the IT industry, venues such as the Los Angeles Port are the world’s leading centres for trade.

California is also well-known for its year-round sunny weather, picture-perfect beaches and coastal scenery alongside the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east. Most importantly for international students, California has been a hub for world-class universities for years. The state-wide University of California institutes have provided internationally renowned degree programmes at affordable rates for decades, and this has helped create a world-leading state-wide educational infrastructure.

California is about 3 hours away from major US cities on the eastern coast, such as Boston and New York City, by air, with major airports including San Francisco’s International Airport and LAX airport in Los Angeles. International students can comfortably travel straight from their home countries to California in either San Francisco or Los Angeles, which receive regular flights from all over the world.

Additionally, California has the largest immigrant population of any American state, with over 11 million immigrants forming more than 25% of the state population. The multicultural environment in the state will surely help international students settle into their top-ranked universities. For example, there are currently over half a million Indian-origin residents in California, and major California cities have plenty of organisations dedicated to providing support and assistance to international students and travellers.

Top-Ranked California Universities

UniversityQS World Ranking 2025Times Higher Education Ranking 2024
Stanford University62
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)107
University of California, Berkeley (UCB)129
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)4218
University of California, San Diego (UCSD)7234

San Francisco

San Francisco is situated in Northern California and is one of America’s largest urban regions. The city is well-known as a hub for technology and data science, with its nearby Silicon Valley region considered the global headquarters of the digital industry. San Francisco offers excellent public transport and connectivity for city residents. Two of California’s top-ranked universities – Stanford University and UC Berkeley – are both located in San Francisco suburbs.

Established in 1885, Stanford University is located in Silicon Valley about an hour south of San Francisco. Stanford is well-known worldwide as a leading university for advanced research and innovation in a variety of technical disciplines including computer systems and engineering, as well as political science and data science. Companies established by Stanford alumni include Nike, Netflix and Instagram. Stanford is currently home to over 16,000 enrolled students including nearly 4,000 international admits on its 8,000-acre campus.

Meanwhile, UC Berkeley represents the top-ranked institute of the University of California, a public university system primarily funded by the California state government. Primarily situated in San Francisco’s Bay Area, UC Berkeley is home to over 40,000 enrolled students including a sizable international community of about 10,000 students. UC Berkeley is home to world-leading research and academics in the social sciences, as well as world-class facilities for scientific research and product development.

Other major universities for international students in San Francisco include the City College of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, University of California, San Francisco, California College of the Arts and DeVry University.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the largest city in California and the second-largest in the United States with an urban population of nearly 4 million residents. Los Angeles is world-famous for being home to Hollywood, the American film industry. Additionally, Los Angeles is America’s largest port city and a centre for multiple large-scale industries such as entertainment, fashion, finance and aerospace. The city is an extremely popular tourist destination and offers plenty of sunny beaches and outdoor areas for you to enjoy during your time away from the classroom. Los Angeles is also home to plenty of top-ranked universities including the California Institute of Technology and UCLA.

Established in 1891, Caltech is one of the world’s leading technological universities. Caltech operates multiple world-class research facilities across the world such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Caltech Seismological Laboratory and the International Observatory Network. The university is home to a large number of international students, with nearly 33% of the total enrolment of 2,300 students being international admits.

UCLA offers more than 5,000 courses annually for over 40,000 enrolled students on its campus, and provides as many as 2,500 international exchange programmes to top-ranked universities worldwide. The university is located in central Los Angeles, and offers excellent residential and recreational facilities for all international students on campus.

Other universities in and around Los Angeles include Loyola Marymount University, the University of Southern California, Woodbury University and Alliant International University.

San Diego

Located two hours south of Los Angeles, on the Mexico-US border, San Diego is a welcoming coastal city which has recently emerged as a centre for many industries including biotechnology and healthcare. San Diego offers a refreshing alternative option to hectic urban life in major cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, although it has more than enough recreational activities to keep you entertained away from the classroom. San Diego is home to multiple world-class advanced research facilities in a variety of disciplines.

Situated on a 1500-acre campus in the city, UC San Diego has been a leading research and innovation-focused university since its founding in 1960. UC San Diego is home to over 36,000 enrolled students including an international community of over 12,000 students. UCSD operates many advanced research institutes including the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the world’s largest geological and marine science institute.

Additional top-ranked universities in San Diego for international students include the University of San Diego, San Diego State University (SDSU) and the San Diego Community College District.

Tuition and Living Costs for International Students in California

The average tuition fees at public universities such as the UC institutes in California is about 24,000-30,000 USD per annum for international students. At top-ranked private universities such as Stanford University in California, tuition costs can go up to 40,000-55,000 USD per year, depending on the degree programme selected and other factors.

Many universities across California offer a wide range of scholarships every year for international students. These include the Fulbright Scholarship and the Onsi Sawiris Scholarship, and international students seeking financial assistance should identify relevant scholarships before they apply to California’s universities.

As for living costs, the University of California estimates that international students should be considering a minimum budget of 1,900-2,100 US Dollars per month on average in California. This figure includes about 1,200-1,400 USD for food and shared housing expenses, and this may rise up to 1,600-1,800 US Dollars in larger cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. Additionally, you will require about 200-250 US Dollars for public transport every month, and another 400-500 US Dollars for utilities and miscellaneous expenses.

The most common visa types for international students in California are F-1 and J-1 visas. Current US student visa rules allow you to work up to 20 hours every week on campus during the semester, and up to 40 hours during academic breaks. Many international students at California universities work at campus research facilities, event spaces, academic centres and other administrative venues.

Things to do in California

California offers a wide variety of activities for you to enjoy during academic breaks, and experience the best of America’s heritage and natural beauty in a welcoming, cosmopolitan state. In fact, California receives over 200 million visitors every year!

From North to South along the coast, spectacular vistas of rocky cliffs turn into Southern California’s world-famous beaches. In the interior of the state, the deserts in the region bordering Mexico are located just a short drive from Northern California’s wine country and its rolling hills. You can enjoy a fun day out at the beach, or a hike across California’s scenic national parks. Similarly, California’s cities offer a unique blend of entertainment, art, history and cuisine in an easy-going environment.

Below are a few of California’s must-see sights for international students:

  • Yosemite National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Disneyland 
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Redwood National Park
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

California offers world-class universities, an exciting life in modern American cities, and the support system of large-scale international communities for international students interested in the Golden State’s universities.

See all universities in the USA.

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