The US has some of the world’s most famous and prestigious universities, a reputation for educational excellence and a great quality of life for students.
It also offers international students variety. You can study almost any subject in any way across the entire United States, from part-time degrees to dedicated community colleges or religious schools.
How can you study a degree in the USA?There are more than 5,500 universities in the USA offering undergraduate courses, so the choice and variety of institutions open to an international student is vast, and can be a little overwhelming.
Universities in the USA are divided into two main strands:
- Private universities – These are funded by tuition fees and private donations from benefactors. They tend to focus on a particular area in more depth and have fewer students.
Public universities – These institutions are funded by the state and are more popular with students. International students will pay a higher tuition fee rate than home students.
The United States is one of the most expensive places to study in the world. The average cost of annual tuition fees for international students is around $20,000 (£13,000) at a public university, while private institutions can charge much more. There are no standard set fees and each institution can charge what they like, with fees between departments at the same university often being different.
However, many countries and universities offer scholarships in order to study a degree in the USA. You should check with your chosen department.
Immigration and visasBefore travelling to study a degree in the USA you will need to apply for a non-immigrant visa.
The most common kind of student visa is the F-1 visa, which entitles the holder to study at any US accredited college or university.
To apply for a student visa, you will need to fill out an application form (found on the US Embassy website) and send appropriate documentation, such as evidence of financial standing and proof of university acceptance and academic qualifications, as well as possibly attending a visa interview at the US Embassy in your home country.
It is normally also necessary to demonstrate that you have adequate study abroad travel insurance, which you must buy before you travel.
Accommodation and living costsThe three main kinds of student accommodation open to undergraduates in the USA are:
- University residence halls
- Private student housing
Private accommodation is often much cheaper, but depends on where and who you live with. As a guide, you can expect to pay between $300 and $1,000 a month for a room in shared housing.
Living costs/rent: America is not the cheapest place in the world to live as a student, but the amount you spend will depend on where you live and the sort of lifestyle you want. As a guide, public transport in the US is relatively cheap, while eating out and groceries are generally cheaper than European countries but more expensive than Asian ones.
For ParentsHow safe is the United States?
The United States may have a reputation for gun crime and violence, but in general it is a safe country for international students to study in. You should research your child’s chosen university and its surrounding areas. By federal law, all US universities must provide campus crime statistics – you can find a list of all university crime statistics using the Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Tool.
Many campuses on the United States are protected by security guards and students can often be asked to pass through metal detectors on their way into classes.
Students should always take care to protect their own personal safety in order to avoid becoming victims of crime. They can do this by:
- Avoiding carrying around large amounts of money
- Staying in groups, especially at night, and never walking alone
- Not making valuables obvious
- Always having a route home planned and never getting into unlicensed taxis
- Being wary of strangers
- Being careful of traffic
Staying in touch
Staying in touch when your child is studying on the other side of the world might seem daunting – but there are ways you can talk regularly that don’t have to involve long distance phone calls and a nasty bill at the end of the month.
Luckily, America is an extremely technologically advanced society, so you should have no problem staying in contact. Here are a few tips if your child opts to study an undergraduate degree in the United States:
- Skype – the free video calling service can be downloaded within seconds, and will allow you to talk face to face anywhere you have an internet connection
- Blogging – maybe encourage your child to keep a blog of their adventures overseas, so that other families members (such as grandparents) can keep up to date
- Local sim cards – it is also a good idea for your child to buy a phone with a local pay as you go sim card when they arrive so that they can text and call home without running up a bill
If you want to study abroad but are not sure where, check our country guides. However, if you would like more information on studying in the USA, you can sign up for our Free Application Service and we'll get back to you promptly with information tailored to your course search.