International Students’ Guide to Studying in the US

Essential information for your international education.

Moving to the United States to pursue an education can be a culture shock. A new nation, new friends, and new experiences are all waiting for you, but getting started can be difficult. The more resources you have, the easier the transition will be. This guide will inform students about how to best utilize on-campus resources to help maximize their time in the United States, and includes information such as financial aid options and international student loans, what students can expect on an American campus, and how to overcome the most common challenges international students face.

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Fast Facts on International Students in the United States

  • In the 2019-2020 academic year, there were almost 1.1 million international students in the United States.
  • In the 2019-2020 academic year, China was the top origin for international students, representing 35 percent of the total, followed by India (18 percent), South Korea (5 percent), and Saudi Arabia (3 percent).
  • Since 2000, the enrollment of international students in colleges around the country has increased 72 percent.
  • The states with the most international students are California, New York, and Texas.


Research the Best Universities and Colleges

Where do you start to research colleges in the United States? Which college will be best for you? Thousands of public, private, and for-profit institutions across the United States provide undergraduate and graduate programs. To begin applying, you’ll need a much more manageable list, therefore your first step should be to examine your university priorities. To begin, we recommend using the U.S. Department of Education College Navigator site. Below are some additional resources to help choose the right university for you.

  • U.S. News Top Colleges for International Students
    U.S. News provides a list of the colleges and universities with the most international students.
  • eduPASS Guide to the Top Universities for International Students
    This university ranking is based on the three factors that matter most to international students and their families: value, safety, and a welcoming atmosphere for international students.
  • Big Future
    Big Future’s college search engine finds colleges and universities just right for you.  Quickly perform a college search by major, location, type of college, financial aid, and more.
  • Top Colleges for International Students
    What does “accredited” mean and which U.S. university rankings do international students need to know? This guide takes a closer look at U.S. college ranking systems and the top universities in the U.S.
  • Times Higher Education University Rankings
    The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, founded in 2004, is a vital resource that provides the definitive list of the world’s best universities.
  • Most Popular Majors for International Students
    Explore the most popular majors among international students in the U.S., and discover how country of origin affects the choice of major.
  • Poets and Quants
    This website covers all that matters in the business school world, with in-depth analysis of B-schools rankings and full-time MBA programs.

Financial Aid & International Student Loans Resources

Many students find it difficult to afford an education abroad, especially in the United States. International Student Loans can provide funding for the entire cost of your college or university education, minus any other aid received; funds can be used on expenses like tuition, books and supplies, room and board, travel and transportation, and living expenses. If you need help finding the financial resources to support your international education, there are a number of other options that you can explore when looking for sources of funding.

  • IEFA
    IEFA is the premier resource for international scholarship and grant information for students.
  • MPOWER Financing
    We provide international student loans with no-cogisner or credit history required.
  • eduPASS
    Provides a list of costs to include in your personal budget on top of tuition, housing, and meals.
  • International Student
    Provides international students and study abroad students with access to a range of loan products to help fund their education abroad.
  • International Students Find Ways to Pay High Tuition
    Voice of America provides this great article and accompanying interview with an international student who figured out how to attend school in America without breaking the bank.

Scholarship Opportunities

Researching opportunities to receive scholarships for your international education is a great route to pursue. The following websites provide information about scholarship opportunities specifically for international students:

Student Visa & Immigration Resources

Once you’ve been accepted to a school and program as an international student, it’s time to begin the process of obtaining your student visa. While this may seem like an intimidating process, it’s more straightforward than you might think. Before going to your visa appointment, make sure you have all required documents that are listed in this list of from the U.S Department of State

Here are additional resources that will help you with the process of obtaining your student visa.

  • Student Visa Overview
    This overview from The U.S. Department of State helps you determine which type of visa would be best for you and how to apply for one. 
  • How to Get Your Visa
    Find out how to apply for a U.S. student visa, and what requirements you’ll need to meet.
  • How to Use Your Visa
    After you’ve obtained your student visa and have permission to study at a U.S. college there are a few things to do to prepare. Learn what happens next!
  • Apply for a Visa
    Information about the step-by-step U.S. visa application process for F-1, J-1, and M-1 undergraduate student visa types.
  • The F-1 Visa, Explained
    The F-1 visa allows a student to temporarily live in the U.S. for a defined period of time while studying. This guide explains the application process.
  • F-1 or J-1 Student Visa
    Understanding the different U.S. student visa types can seem overwhelming and confusing. Read more to help you decide which one to pursue.
  • M-1 Student Visa
    The M-1 visa allows international students to enter the U.S. to study on a full-time vocational course at a recognised technical college or other educational institution.
  • F-1 Visa Interview Questions
    This guide helps you prepare for your F-1 student visa interview.

Careers & Employment

International students studying in the U.S. can work part time, per their visa terms. Some visas have different restrictions when it comes to working. Students with an F-1 visa can work part-time on campus during their first year in the U.S., but only for a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time. After that, international students can apply for an off-campus employment permit from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Students with an M-1 visa are prohibited from working. 

Throughout your job search, be sure to check out your school’s Career Center for guidance with interviews, networking, resume workshops, and cover letters.

  • USCIS – Students and Employment
    The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services explains what job opportunities are available to international students with specific visas.
  • On-Campus Employment
    U.S Customs and Immigration Enforcement covers the basics of on-campus and off-campus job opportunities available to international students with an F-1 visa.
  • Job Tips for International Students
    This article details some job tips for international graduates in the United States.
  • How to land a job in the U.S. (as a foreigner)
    It can be difficult to land a job in the U.S. as an international student, but this guide provides you with useful tips on how to do so.
  • My Visa Jobs
    My Visa Jobs provides customized work visa solutions based on your profile and analysis of the visa job database.

American Culture

Many international students look forward to learning and living in a different culture while studying in the U.S. Click here to learn more about the 50 U.S. states, including maps, facts, historical information and more.

If you are new to the U.S., you’ll definitely experience a bit of culture shock and may have questions about the workplace and general culture. Below are some informative articles that will help you adapt to U.S. culture upon arrival.

Be sure to check out the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s website to view a list of what you can and can’t bring into the country.

Essay Writing & English

Writing an essay is one of the most difficult tasks that international students encounter. Writing a comprehensive college essay can be difficult for students whose native language is not English. Fortunately, there are a number of trustworthy essay writing resources available to assist you. If you’re currently enrolled at an American university, the first and best place to seek help is your college’s writing center on campus. 

The majority of schools and universities feature a free writing center on campus for students to use. Faculty and graduate students operate these writing centers, which can assist students who are having trouble preparing essays for their classes. Students can go to the writing center for guidance with specific tasks or with more general essay-writing abilities.

If you’re a student who is currently abroad, there are numerous resources online that can help sharpen up your English reading, writing, and speaking skills including:

In addition to writing, speaking English will be necessary for studying abroad in the United States. English is one of the most commonly spoken languages around the world and is the most common in the U.S. as well. If you need to brush up on your English skills, here are a few resources to help you.

  • Elevate
    Elevate is an award-winning brain training tool designed to build communication and analytical skills.
  • English Tips for International Students
    This article covers a few ways to practice English that international students should consider.
  • English Class 101
    Free English lessons focused on fun, interesting, and culturally relevant exercises.
  • Podcasts in English
    A podcast website designed for all levels of English learners.

Are you ready to fund your dreams?

MPOWER Financing is excited to help you finance your studies in the United States. We provide student loans and scholarships for international and DACA students in North America.

DISCLAIMER – Subject to credit approval, loans are made by Bank of Lake Mills or MPOWER Financing, PBC. Bank of Lake Mills does not have an ownership interest in MPOWER Financing. Neither MPOWER Financing nor Bank of Lake Mills is affiliated with the school you attended or are attending. Bank of Lake Mills is Member FDIC. None of the information contained in this website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by MPOWER Financing or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.

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