Overview

The United States of America or USA is a federal republic located in North America. It is the fourth largest country in the world by area. The national capital is Washington, with the District of Columbia as the federal capital region.

USA

Why Study in USA

The United States consists of 50 states and it also administers five major territories and several minor islands. It has 48 contiguous states and shares borders with Canada, including terrestrial and maritime boundaries.

  • Capital City: Washington, DC
  • Largest City by Area: Sitka, Alaska
  • Largest City by Population: New York, New York
  • Major Language Used: English

In terms of economy, the United States is regarded as the world’s greatest economic power based on its gross domestic product (GDP). Because of the enormous wealth of its natural resources, the country has become a self-sufficient nation that can sustain a diverse economic life to provide its people with the highest standards of living.

Why Study in the United States

Since the 1950s, the United States has been a preferred study destination for many international students. From less than 30,000 students in 1950, the number of enrollees has grown exponentially over the years to breach the million mark by 2020.

According to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, 1,075,496 international students studied in the United States in 2019-20. In addition, the share of international students in U.S. higher education also increased from 1 percent in 1950 to almost 6 percent in 2019-20.

Why does the United States attract a large population of international students?

Global Academic Excellence

The United States is the bastion of academic excellence. The country is home to some of the best higher education programs. Plus, it also boasts world-renowned schools, with many colleges and universities belonging to the top 50 in the world. Some of the notable education rankings include:

  • The United States is home to eight Ivy League Schools: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University.
  • Based on the QS World University Rankings 2021, 14 universities in the United States were among the top 50, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) holding the top spot with a perfect overall score.
  • The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 has 14 U.S. universities within the top 20, with Stanford University clinching the second overall spot.
  • The Shanghai Ranking’s Academic Ranking of World Universities included 15 universities in its top 20 universities in the world.
  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked the United States education 8th out of 40 countries, with 91% of adults aged between 25 and 64 years old being able to complete upper secondary education.
  • According to U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best Countries for Education, the United States is considered the top destination country for education
  • In the RUR World University Rankings, 13 universities out of 829 higher education institutions that belong in the top 20 are in the United States. Leading the pack is Harvard University with a perfect score.
  • The Reuters Top 100 list of the World’s Most Innovative Universities in 2019 included eight universities from the United States in the top 10, with Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Washington taking the top five spots.
  • Educations.com ranked the United States fourth in the Top 10 Places in the World to Study Abroad in 2021. It also ranked second in terms of giving international students access to higher quality teaching, and fifth in terms of letting students experience a new culture or lifestyle.

Source: Educations.com

Based on the data, it is clear that the United States has maintained its strong presence among the top-ranked study destinations around the world. Majority of these successes can be attributed to how well-supported and funded U.S. institutions are.

Additionally, most of the colleges and universities in the United States uphold strict academic standards to produce highly skilled and competent graduates.

That said, degrees and certifications acquired from American higher education institutions are recognized globally and considered valuable in helping advance one’s career.

Diverse Culture

Different cultures, ethnicities, and races have found their home in the United States. Many of the colleges and universities in the country have a huge population of students from different backgrounds, offering students a rich and stimulating academic experience. This not only helps students secure jobs in the future, but also fosters a more enriching life experience.

Universities take cultural diversity seriously, with many having it as one of their primary pillars, so it is no surprise for students to find their classes filled with students coming from every religion, nationality, and ethnicity.

Students will find it easy to adjust and assimilate because they can find someone with whom they share a similar background. They can also mingle with other people to learn new ideas and perspectives.

With the United States population becoming more diverse, it is understandable that the student population will also be more varied. A huge factor in the improved diversity in higher education is the growing number of Hispanics and Asian adults seeking higher education.

According to Statista, the top countries with international students in the United States for the 2019-2020 school year are the following:

  1. China: 372,532
  2. India: 193,124
  3. South Korea: 49,809
  4. Saudi Arabia: 30, 957
  5. Canada: 25,992
  6. >Vietnam: 23,777
  7. Taiwan: 23,724
  8. Japan: 17,554
  9. Brazil: 16,671
  10. Mexico: 14,348

This data is supported by the data from the Institute of International Education (IIE) 2020 Open Doors Report, which shows that China and India have the most number of students enrolled in American universities.

Based on the U.S. News & World Report, the most diverse national universities in the United States are the following:

  1. University of Hawaii - Hilo
  2. Andrews University
  3. University of Nevada
  4. Rutgers University
  5. Stanford University
  6. University of San Francisco
  7. University of Hawaii- Manoa
  8. Georgia State University
  9. Johns Hopkins University
  10. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Research Excellence

The United States is also famous for being home to universities that spearhead research across various fields of studies. Supporting research is critical to a country because not only does it help provide additional learnings, it also helps encourage critical and analytical thinking among students.

  • The CWTS Leiden Ranking included six American universities in its list of institutions with scientific research impact from 2015 to 2018, with Harvard University topping the list worldwide.
  • The United States is also among the top countries for scientific research based on the SCIMAGO Institutions Ranking 2019, clinching the second spot next to China.
  • The Nature Index ranked the United States as the top country for natural sciences research.
  • Harvard University and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) take the top two positions in terms of citations per academic and research staff, according to the 2020 Round University Ranking.

Flexible Learning Environments

International students go abroad to learn from the best universities. For those who intend to study in the United States, there are many fields that they can choose from. Those who want to study business are not limited to the general study of the subject, as they can also choose the specific concentration that suits their academic and career goals.

Universities in the United States are highly individualistic in their approach. They place high value on developing a student’s way of thinking.

But while students can expect to work on many personal projects and assignments, they can also learn how to communicate and work with peers in group activities. Group assignments and projects are given to teach students team management and conflict resolution, which are valuable skills in the ‘real world.’

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of American higher education is the flexibility of schedules. Students can pre-select their schedules and take classes that best suit their lifestyle.

More than the educational environment, institutions also encourage students to explore leisurely activities to help them cultivate interpersonal relationships.

Best Quality of Life

The United States is among the few countries that offer a high quality of life. Aside from academic excellence, the country is also known for its economic and job stability.

  • The U.S. News & World Report ranked the country 7th overall in its Best Countries ranking for 2020. The United States also took the 15th spot in terms of quality of life.
  • In the Quality of Life Index by Numbeo, the United States is among the top countries known for its highest quality of life.
  • On a scale from 0 to 10, people in the United States gave their general satisfaction with life an average grade of 6.9 on the OECD Better Life Index.
  • On a scale from 0 to 10, people in the United States gave their general satisfaction with life an average grade of 6.9 on the OECD Better Life Index.

Fast Facts

Best Ranked Institutions by the QS World Rankings
  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Stanford University
  3. Harvard University
  4. California Institute of Technology
  5. University of Chicago
  6. Princeton University
  7. University of Pennsylvania
  8. Cornell University
  9. Yale University
  10. Columbia University
Top Postgraduate Courses in the United States by Median Salary.
  1. Information Systems - $146,360
  2. Petroleum Engineering - $137,720
  3. Marketing - $135,900
  4. Finance - $129,890
  5. Political Science - $122,220
  6. Nurse Anesthesia - $115,800
  7. Physician Assistant Studies - $112,260
  8. Computer Science - $105,590
  9. Economics - $105,020
  10. Healthcare Administration - $100,980
Top Universities for Online MBA Program
  1. Carnegie-Mellon University
  2. University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
  3. Indiana University - Bloomington
  4. University of South California
  5. University of Florida
  6. Arizona State University
  7. Pennsylvania State University
  8. University of Texas - Dallas
  9. Rice University
  10. Lehigh University
Top Educational Scholarships Available for International Students
    Government-Funded
  1. Fulbright Foreign Student Program
  2. Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program
    Non-Government Funded
  1. Civil Society Leadership Awards
  2. David P. Shapiro Autism Scholarship
  3. Preply Scholarship
  4. Surfshark Privacy and Security Scholarship
  5. Tortuga Backpacks Study Abroad Scholarship
  6. #YouAreWelcomeHere Scholarship
Top-Paying Industries in the United States
  1. Utilities
  2. Management of Companies & Enterprises
  3. Information Industries
  4. Finance & Insurance
  5. Mining, Quarrying, and Oil & Gas Exploration
  6. Professional/Scientific/Technical Services
  7. Wholesale Trade
  8. Manufacturing
  9. Government
  10. Construction
Top-Paying Health Care Jobs in the United States
  1. Anesthesiologists
  2. Surgeons
  3. Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons
  4. Obstetrics & Gynecologist
  5. Orthodontists
  6. Prosthodontists
  7. Psychiatrists
  8. Family Medicine
  9. Physicians (Other)
  10. Internal Medicine
Top Jobs by Demand
  1. Physician Assistant
  2. Software Developer
  3. Nurse Practitioner
  4. Medical & Health Services Manager
  5. Physician
  6. Statistician
  7. Speech Language Pathologist
  8. Data Scientist
  9. Data Scientist
  10. Veterinarian

Unique International Student Experience

One of the first things international students have to deal with once they land in the United States is the culture shock. One may feel confused or disoriented, particularly if they are not from a Western country.

One of the first things international students have to deal with once they land in the United States is the culture shock. One may feel confused or disoriented, particularly if they are not from a Western country.

Some colleges and universities even encourage students to take “core” classes that would broaden their knowledge on a wide variety of subjects that are typically not covered by their major areas of study.

International Student Clubs

Some universities and colleges would have organizations that are specifically for international students or for a particular ethnicity.

The University of Chicago, for instance, has the International Students Association (ISA) that welcomes all students from different countries and aims to assist them in adjusting to the university life and Chicago.

It also has recognized organizations that are specific to a country, such as the African & Caribbean Student Association (ACSA), Brazilian Student Association, Chinese Students and Scholars Association, and many more.

International Alumni Associations

International alumni groups are also available for students who graduate from any college or university in the United States. It is a great way to connect and network with peers and colleagues. The University of Southern California has an active alumni association operating in various regions in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

Working as an International Student

International students in the United States have the opportunity to work part-time, provided the work hours and scope are within those allowed in the terms of their visa. Most international students have an F-1 visa, or the U.S. non-immigrant student visa.

On-Campus Employment

Under the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), international students can work within their campuses, even if the job scope is not related to the studies. While the employment may not need a prior approval from the USCIS, some schools require getting permission from the International Student Office. Note that some schools may not allow on-campus employment during the first semester.

    Under the F-1 visa, students can work on-campus following these criteria:

  • Limited to 20 hours a week while the academic year is in session
  • Full-time work is permitted during school breaks and holidays, provided there is proof of intention to enroll for the next academic semester
  • Employment does not displace a U.S. resident

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Working off-campus as an international student is also possible under the optional practical training (OPT) status. This is applicable during and after degree completion. Applying for OPT is possible if the student is enrolled on a full-time basis for an entire academic year or nine months.

However, international students cannot start work without receiving the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). A job offer may not be necessary but it must be started early, as processing can take 90 days.

Here are the considerations for General OPT:

The scope of the job should be related to the student’s major

  • Lawful F-1 status maintenance
  • OPT application must be done before finishing a degree
  • OPT is allowed only for up to 12 months full-time in total.
  • Students who have 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) may not apply for OPT.

Before degree completion, students must be aware of the following provisions of working under the OPT.

  • They must be enrolled full-time
  • Work hours are limited to 20 hours during ongoing sessions
  • Full-time is only allowed during summer and other breaks as long as students can present proof of enrollment after the break
  • Students may also work full-time if they have completed the coursework and only need to comply with dissertation

After degree completion, students must:

  • Work full-time
  • Do OPT completion within 14 months of degree completion
  • Send applications for post-completion OPT to the USCIS before actual degree completion

Application Process

While many students aim to study in the United States, not all are able to have an American education mainly because academic institutions have strict admission requirements.

If you are keen to study in the United States, it is important to follow a timetable to make sure that you start the application process early, giving you enough time to sift through the many programs and institutions that offer the best education.

Application Timeline

Here is a recommended timeline to prepare you for your international study in the United States:

18 to 20 Months Prior to Study

  • Know programs that suit academic goals
  • Research about various colleges
  • Register and prepare for entrance exams
  • Improve grades in school
  • Receive counseling guidance

12 to 14 Months Prior to Study

  • Choose the schools to apply to
  • Get list of requirements
  • Prepare and take entrance exams

10 to 12 Months Prior to Study

  • List references and send them reference forms
  • Request copies of school transcripts
  • Start writing application essays

8 to 10 Months Prior to Study

  • Look for possible financing
  • Complete and submit college applications
  • Retake entrance exams for unsatisfactory scores

3 Months Prior to Study

  • Apply for F-1 visa
  • Look for health and travel insurance
  • Start travel arrangements
  • Consider accommodation options

1 Month Prior to Study

  • Last-minute documentary requirements
  • Final travel preparations for trip
  • Prepare for classes before arrival

Standardized Tests to Take

International students who plan to take up undergraduate and graduate programs will be asked to complete exams to measure their English proficiency, which is the major language used in the United States.

Undergraduate Admission Tests

  • American College Testing (ACT)
  • Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT)
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

Graduate and Professional Admission Tests

  • Dental Admission Testing Program (DAT) – for dental schools
  • Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) – for business schools/study for MBA (Master’s in Business Administration) programs
  • Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) – for liberal arts, science, math
  • Law School Admission Testing Program (LSAT) – for law schools
  • Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) – for medical schools
  • Optometry Admission Testing Program (OAT)
  • Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

Application Documents to Prepare

International students need to prepare different documents when they want to apply for a university in the United States. These include:

  • Application Form
  • English Literacy Score Proof
  • Motivation Letter or Statement of Purpose
  • Passport Photo
  • Resume/Curriculum Vitae
  • Test Scores (SAT, GRE, ACT, GMAT)
  • Transcript of Records or Report Cards
  • Writing Sample

Application Deadlines to Remember

Applications for a bachelor’s (undergraduate) degree have two deadlines: the early admission and the regular admission. For those applying for the fall admissions, early deadlines are between October and November of the previous year. The regular admission deadline will be anytime from February to March of the same year.

For master’s or PhD (postgraduate) degrees, application deadlines depend on the semester of enrollment, whether admissions start in the spring or fall. Fall admissions have deadlines from January to March. For spring admissions, the deadline is from July to September of the previous academic year.

Take note that deadlines vary depending on the type of program you are taking and the university you plan to attend.

Student Visa Types

International students can avail of different student visas, depending on the type of academic experience they are applying for. These include:

F-1 Visa

An F-1 visa is the most common given to students who are enrolled in an academic program or an English Language Program. Under this visa, the students must take the minimum allowed course load for full-time students. They can engage in part-time, on-campus employment, and OPT. Additionally, they should complete their studies before the expiration date stated on their Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status or I-20 form

J-1 Visa

The J-1 visa is another type issued to students who must complete practical training that may not be available in their home country. Like the F-1 visa, J-1 visa holders can also work with the same restrictions, provided that the employment is awarded via the exchange visitor program sponsor.

M-1 Visa

For students who plan to attend a vocational or non-academic school, they will be awarded with an M-1 visa. This visa does not allow holders to work during study completion and they must supply proof that they have enough funds to support their tuition and other living

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