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Home to some of the world’s most esteemed universities, the U.S. is an attractive destination for many international students. But moving stateside for college can be challenging, especially given the host of bureaucratic processes required for the move.
Luckily, there are several international student resources available online to guide you through the transition. Keep these key resources handy if you’re an international student in the United States. And if you need even more information, check out our online international student guide.
What to Consider When Studying Abroad
Your college experience depends largely on your school’s geographic location, program offerings and reputation for academic rigor. Keep these factors in mind when deciding on a U.S.-based university.
Consider Where in the U.S. You Would Like to Study
You can find prestigious colleges and universities all over the country. Think about where you might feel most at home, and go from there. Are you seeking a big city experience? If so, attending school in an area like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles might suit you best.
If the city isn’t your style, there are several high-performing schools in suburban and rural areas of the U.S., such as Iowa State University and the University of Connecticut. Don’t forget the universities in many of the nation’s idyllic beach towns, such as the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Ensure Your Prospective School Has a Program That Interests You
Of course, going to school at the beach might seem like paradise—but only if the university offers your specific program of interest. This is especially important to consider if you’re planning to enter a competitive field, such as medicine, veterinary school or the performing arts.
Make Sure You Have all the Required Travel Documents
As a noncitizen student in the U.S., you’ll need various documents to prove your immigration status. This is especially important if you plan on taking trips throughout the U.S., or if you plan on leaving the country and returning while still in school.
Every international student must have a passport. To enter the U.S., your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your arrival date.
You need a valid student visa as well. International students attending a college or university in the U.S. must present an F student visa. If you’re studying in a vocational program or another recognized nonacademic institution other than a language training program, you’ll need an M student visa. The U.S. Department of State has more information on the visas required for international students.
Required immigration documents include the I-20 (F-1), which is issued by a U.S. school and proves acceptance into a college or university. The I-20 also proves the student has sufficient funds to pay for the full course of study. You’ll also need your nonimmigrant visa (DS-160) form, a valid photo and your application fee payment receipt.
International Student Resources
Here are some helpful online destinations to help you manage your affairs as an international student. You can also consider joining an organization for international students.
Even if you’re not a U.S. citizen, it’s possible to qualify for financial aid as an international student. To see if you qualify, check out the office of Federal Student Aid. This resource outlines who qualifies for federal aid as an eligible noncitizen, and it links to the various websites you’ll need for completing applications.
International Student is an all-in-one hub for international student resources. It offers a variety of tools to help you search and apply for different programs. For example, International Students helps you manage your finances, including searching for international student loans, scholarships and work-study programs.
The site also provides information about obtaining a student visa, searching for a college or university program and preparing for standardized tests. You can also find essay-writing and admission tips on this site.
The Department of Homeland Security has a website dedicated to helping international students succeed.
From the homepage, choose whether you’re studying on an F or M student visa. If you’re an F student, select your education level. From there, you’ll be directed to a landing page with links to important resources, facts and best practices for studying in the United States.
If you’re in the U.S. on an M visa, you’ll be brought to a similar page after choosing your education level.
MPower Financing provides fixed-rate student loans to high-potential students pursuing U.S. degrees. As a public benefit corporation, MPower Financing extends aid to students from over 190 countries globally. The company also provides resources for applying to other U.S.-based loans.
Additionally, MPower Financing assists international students with career support resources, including resume review and interview preparation services, internship opportunities and access to networking groups.
Applying for a loan from MPower Financing takes about 30 minutes to complete online, assuming you have all of your paperwork ready. You’ll need identification documents, transcripts and other educational information, work experience documentation, financial information and a professional reference.
The Institute of International Education (IIE) is a global nonprofit organization. It designs and implements education strategies and program services for international students. IIE manages over 200 programs with participants from 183 countries.
Students can take advantage of IIE’s extensive database to find scholarships, fellowships and grants to support their international studies.
The Center for Global Education provides international students with links to online resources and coursework to prepare them for their studies in the United States. The varying resources address topics relating to American culture, challenges that international students might face in the U.S., academics, visas and immigration.
EducationUSA—a program that exists under the U.S. Department of State—manages over 430 international student advising centers in more than 175 countries and territories. It provides students around the globe with accurate and comprehensive information about obtaining a higher education degree in the United States.
EducationUSA also helps U.S.-based institutional leaders meet their recruitment and internationalization goals.
EducationUSA offers a five-step guide to launching your education in the U.S., along with links to financial aid opportunities and a global directory of advising centers. Advising centers host educational fairs, brief prospective students on study opportunities in the U.S. and offer individualized counsel to students who are applying to colleges.
The National Association for Foreign Student Affairs (NAFSA) provides helpful links for planning and financing your studies in the United States. NAFSA doesn’t offer scholarships or other financial support to international students, but it can help you begin your search for financial aid.
American Council on Education
The American Council on Education (ACE) provides insights related to international students and the internationalization of American universities. While ACE doesn’t offer a specific program tailored toward international students, the organization provides academic insights on relevant issues that impact students from abroad.
ACE conducts research that underscores career pathways for international students, for example, and is vocal in its advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform.
If you’re a student or recent college graduate, the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE) can help you manage employment opportunities stateside. Are you seeking an internship or training opportunity in the U.S.? Use this resource to apply for a J-1 intern visa or the J-1 trainee visa. CIEE also helps Irish passport-holders obtain internship visas for up to one year.
You can find long-term international exchange programs with help from the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET). Use CSIET’s program-finder tool to explore your options for studying in the United States. You can also refer to the council’s guide on student visas.
CSIET independently certifies its list of study programs, which are compiled into an annual advisory list. Programs are certified based on their adherence to CSIET’s program accountability standards.