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Study Abroad in the United States: Application Process

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First and foremost, look at the entry requirements of any schools you might be interested in. American schools don’t always accept international qualifications, so you might need to sit the SAT exam or another equivalent. Luckily, there are test centers all over the world, should this be the case. You might also need to prove your English-language abilities. You can do this easily by taking the TOEFL test.

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Once you have a recognized qualification in hand, you can apply. 

However, unlike in many European countries, there’s no national application portal. You apply to individual schools, whether you’re an American or international student. You normally do this directly through your chosen schools’ websites.


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Processes may vary a little from school to school, but here are the general steps for how to apply to American schools. 

  • Fill out the application form and upload your supporting documents. If these supporting documents aren’t in English, then you’ll need to submit them with a notarized translation. 
  • Write an admissions essay. Think of this as an extended letter of motivation. Generally, admissions essays are about a subject that you find interesting. Through this topic, you’ll need to be able to outline your accomplishments and argue why you’re a good match for the school to which you’re applying. 
  • If you receive an offer of admission, then you’ll need to accept it as quickly as possible so that you can get your I-20 form. If you’ve applied to more than one school, you’ll need to wait until you’ve heard back from all of them before accepting or rejecting any offers.
  • To get your I-20 form, you’ll need to pay the tuition fees deposit, as well as produce proof of finances that are sufficient to cover your living costs for at least one year.
  • Once you have your I-20 form in hand, you can begin applying for your study visa and get ready for your adventure in the United States.

American schools open for applications at various dates throughout the fall semester. Most schools will need to have received your application by December or January at the latest.

Study in the United States

The United States is a continent of adventure and experiences in just one country. This section gives you an overview of what it's like to study abroad in the United States, as well as insight into some of the opportunities waiting for you.

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Education in the United States

Want to learn about how the higher education system works in the United States? The USA is a popular destination for students around the world given its diverse range of programs, friendly citizens and its culture and history. Find out more about the structure of the education system in the United States!

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Student Visas

Do you need a visa to enter the United States to study? Learn more about the student visa process, and what you need to enter the country, depending on your citizen status. You will also be required to bring certain documents with you to passport control at the airport in order to gain entry into the country.

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Housing & Living Costs

Depending on where you study, the United States can be a very affordable country compared to other popular study abroad destinations. We’ve detailed average living and housing costs so that you can get a better idea of what you will be paying as a student in the United States.

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Tuition Fees & Scholarships

Tuition fees for American programs vary greatly based on the school and degree program. International students usually pay a different fee than U.S. citizens. However, there are also plenty of scholarships available specifically for international students.

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Language & Culture

American culture has been popularized around the world! From famous movies and TV shows to internationally successful companies and brands, the United States has a lot to offer. Find out more about what the country offers in terms of language, culture, cuisine, and more!

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Meet the English Requirements

Make sure you're ready to start studying abroad in the United States. American schools will normally want to see evidence of your English-language abilities. The TOEFL iBT® test is accepted by all American schools and is even the preferred test by 9 out of 10 American universities. Find out more about the TOEFL iBT test and how it can help you.

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Ready to look at education in the United States? Use our search engine to find and compare top programs in the United States today!

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Last update: 02 Dec 2021

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