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Applying to U.S. Universities As An International Student

Here in the U.S., summer is starting to wane, the nights are getting cooler and students are heading back to school. It’s a season of its own in the USA. As an international student, you too can begin planning your studies in the USA.

But how, you may ask! No matter where you’re from or where you’re planning to study, applying to university is daunting. Most things that will change your life are!


Choosing a University That Is Right For You

First, you need to figure out where you want to study. This is a large task in itself. The United States is home to hundreds of universities and colleges with completely different settings, educational atmospheres, and opportunities. Don’t just set your sights on the famous Ivy League universities, as these schools will be very difficult to get into.

Think about your educational goals, what atmosphere and environment you study best in, and where you’d like to live. For example, you may perform better at a university that has small class sizes as opposed to a school that could have a hundred students in a single class. Some students prefer to live in a more rural area so they can focus on their studies, while other students want to be close to the attractions of a big city.

The goal is to find three to five that interest you. You can learn about different schools at your local EducationUSA office and websites like  



Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to three to five schools (start with this many, you may apply to more schools later), contact their international admissions office and tell them you’re interested in attending. They will be able to provide you with more specific information.

TIP: Apply well in advance of when you intend to begin your studies just in case you don’t get into your top schools. This will give you time to apply to other schools. Don’t rule out community colleges as their costs are lower and admission tends to be easier.

Keep in mind that every university and college has different admission requirements and standards! Also important to consider is the school’s costs. Is the tuition and cost of living feasible for you?

Do you meet the school’s SAT, GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, and/or IELTS score requirements? Have you taken any of the admission and placement tests? Hey, look, you’re already on Magoosh, so get to prepping for those tests! You will have more success if you are well prepared.

Now it’s time to look at the school’s application form. Why not apply now?, you may be thinking. You’ll learn quickly that it’s best to review each school’s application to find out what is required.

Most applications will request the following information:

  • Personal information—Include your name, age, address, family background, birthplace, citizenship, and so on.
  • Financial information—Most applications will ask where you will be getting the majority of your funds to pay for your tuition and expenses.
  • Visa information—Schools want to know what kind of visa you intend to apply for. Most likely you will need an F-1 visa.
  • Activities—Make a list of club memberships, awards earned, team sports experience, or leadership roles you have held.
  • Education plan—Write a short essay explaining why you want to attend this school, what course of study you want to pursue, your career goals, and research plans.
  • Essay—Some schools require a personal essay on a topic of your choosing.
  • Letters of recommendation—The application form will include several blank pages for your letters of recommendation. Ask several of your teachers to compose and mail these letters directly to the admissions office of each school you choose. Ask people who you think will write a quality letter on your behalf.

Gather the information above and then complete your application. After sending your application, it would be wise to follow up with the admissions office a few days later to make sure they have received your application.

Then … you wait. Good luck!



Jennifer Privette is the Editor and Assistant Publisher of Study in the USA magazines and She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Seattle University.

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