How to Go to College Abroad

By: Barbara Leventhal | Last Updated: July 7, 2021

Thinking of “going global” for your college education? As the world gradually opens up following pandemic restrictions, American and international students are reexamining worldwide options for higher education. Today’s post focuses on the steps non-U.S. citizens need to take to study in the United States. Keep in mind that this article offers a broad overview of the process – requirements may vary from country to country and be subject to change. We’ve outlined below some of the key steps, but always refer to the U.S. Department of State’s guidelines for complete details.

student studying in londonStep One:

You must first apply to colleges of interest and submit all required materials by their deadlines. Those materials may include the application, accompanying essays, official high school transcripts, letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores (if submitting). As an international applicant, you will likely have to submit additional documentation, such as results from the TOEFL exam if your native language or language of instruction is other than English, a translated or credentialed copy of your transcript through an accredited evaluation service, a copy of your passport, and/or proof of finances. Some colleges may ask for these materials after they’ve admitted you. All college admissions websites provide detailed information about international application requirements and usually have dedicated international admissions personnel to assist you. When in doubt, check with the college! Be sure to submit all information well before deadlines.

Step Two:

After you’ve been admitted to a college or colleges, and have sent all required documents, you should expect to receive from each school a Form I-20 required for completing the next step: acquiring a visa. Since you only accept one offer of admission, you will use that school’s Form I-20 to complete the next steps of the visa application process. This will include checking your I-20 against your passport to confirm that all information is correct, and then paying the I-901 SEVIS fee. Upon paying this fee, you can then apply for the appropriate student visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Step Three:

The application process for your visa to study in the United States may vary by country of residence, so you’ll need to research how to schedule an appointment at your country’s U.S. embassy or consulate, as well as any other requirements to complete the process. This site is a great place to start. The international student office at your future college will also serve as an important resource in this critical next step. We cannot say it enough: don’t be afraid to ask questions! The international student office will be an excellent resource for providing information about student housing, helping you manage any remaining paperwork and deadlines, and providing updates on college policies (you may need to be vaccinated against Covid-19, for instance). You will usually attend a new student orientation or other welcome program to further guide you through the final steps before you set foot on campus as an enrolled student.

Studying in the U.S. as an international student requires extra planning and careful attention to details. Need some help? We assist our global clients in managing this process from start to finish. Give us a call today!


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