Best Universities in the US for International Students
Welcome, one and all, to a whole new world of opportunity!
You’ve taken your first step towards travelling abroad and gaining access to top global firms, international companies, and a world class education.
No, no, seriously… studying at a US college can open doors you’d never have thought imaginable.
Whether that be to Wall Street, Silicon Valley or the freakin’ moon, a US education can help you get there.
And with the rate of international students in the US rising at a record speed in recent years, there’s no better time to jump on the bandwagon and start looking at the best education – not just the closest education!
With the developments in technology and global connectivity, gaining access to colleges in the US is easier than ever, so take this opportunity while you can.
Benefits of studying in the US
So it’s all well and good to tell you about US education and how good it is, but what are the actual benefits?
Well, for starters, choosing to study abroad is a great boost to your resume. Any manager or person in a position to hire other people likes to see candidates that have experienced the world.
Travel is a great indication that someone has an open mind, likes to experience new things and will approach life and work problems with a more mature outlook than that of someone who has spent their whole life in one city.
Not to mention the unrivalled access US universities grant you to top tier global companies such as Goldman Sachs, Apple, Google and Facebook... purely because of their location alone! In fact, some US colleges are so well connected that they literally act as "feeder schools" for the best firms, like University of Pennsylvania for hedge funds and investment banks on Wall Street and Stanford University for tech companies in Silicon Valley. The door has been opened for you before you've even thought about walking through it!
Another added bonus on this from a personal level is that you’ll get to see the world and experience a new culture all while getting a top of the range education. It’s no secret that your time at university is a good time to see the world before the burdens of full time work and adulthood take hold.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, there are a few steps and hurdles to leap over as international students before you stroll onto campus for the first day of the rest of your life!
Studying in the US as an international student
So while studying in the US has some killer benefits, it’s not all chocolates and roses and there are a couple of downsides to heading abroad as an international student.
For instance, some universities have strict international student quotas in place making admission near impossible for common folk from faraway shores – you truly have to be the best of the best. Take MIT, for example. The overall admissions rate is 7.9%, but the admissions rate for international applicants is less than half of that at 2.9%. Of the 4,653 students admitted this year, just 135 were international students!
On top of this, studying abroad can come at a much greater cost than studying in your home country. Not only are tuition fees much greater for international students, but unless you receive a scholarship or some form of financial aid, you’ll have to consider food, board and travel costs as well.
This is when it can come in handy to know a little bit about the university's financial aid offerings and how they view your application.
For example, if you’re going to struggle to pay for the tuition fees, you’ll want to apply for a place at a need-blind college. Alternatively, if you can afford the cost of tuition, feel free to apply for a college that can see your need requirement. In fact, having a full bank account can boost your chances as you’ll come at less of a cost to a college than someone who requires full-need. It's a matter of playing the cards you’ve been dealt in a way that positions yourself favourably.
While in countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Germany and England, you can expect to receive financial support from your government, you won’t be able to obtain support from the US government as an international student. However, you might be able to get help from the government in your home country – you’ll just need to request and apply for support.
Ultimately, country of citizenship plays a big role in US admissions. You’ll have the odds stacked up against you; that is, unless you know where to look and how to seek out the right support!
Many US universities believe that education should be accessible to everyone, no matter where you come from. This is why it helps to know where to apply.
Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most supportive and accessible US colleges for international students.
What do you have to do to get there? Will you be good enough to get in? And how could you possibly afford it?
All this information and more is below, so stop stressing and read on, dear friend!
In no particular order, here are some of the best US colleges for international students.
Top 8 US Colleges For International Students
Okay, so how could New York University not be a great college for international students? It’s literally located in one of the most visited cities in the world: Manhattan, New York.
Bars, restaurants, broadway, industry connections, and Wall Street are all within walking distance of NYU. There is plenty to do after class and a whole lot of opportunities to get your foot in the door!
On top of its ideal location for any travel bug-bitten, high achieving student, NYU has the greatest number of international students in America with about 20% of its first-year class in 2017 made up of non-US citizens. Plenty of new friends for you to make!
What makes NYU such a desirable and accessible place for foreigners is the fact that it has no restrictions on the amount of overseas students it admit. Currently, over 17,000 international students and scholars from over 140 different countries are on campus at NYU – more than some universities' total student body!
Unfortunately, however, NYU is not a need-blind school, so admissions officers can see your financial need requirements when assessing your application. For this reason, if your need is minimal, it can be a huge boost to your application.
Having said that, no matter what your need requirements are, applicants who are not US citizens or permanent residents will be considered for scholarships regardless. However, you’ll only be considered for scholarships and financial support if you submit all required forms on time – so don’t drop the ball!
Though admission and financial aid can be tough to obtain, once you’re in, graduating as an NYU student can make life much simpler for you. It places in the top 30 universities worldwide and is well-reputed among employers, with 96% of the class of 2016 employed or in graduate school within six months after finishing. Not bad at all!
Acceptance Rate: 27%
Average SAT Score: 1320-1500
Average ACT Score: 28-32
Undergraduate Population: 58,419
Number of International Students: 17,000
QS World University Ranking: 52
International Student Tuition Fees: $46,170
Located just outside one of the most influential educational cities in the US, Boston, Babson College considers itself “the undisputed leader in entrepreneurship education”, claiming 21 consecutive number one rankings from US News & World Report. Yep, 21!
What’s more, Babson boasts a healthy and inviting admission rate of 24%, and when you’re within hours of world class schools such as Harvard, MIT and Tufts which have ridiculously low admission rates, I like those odds!
Forbes recently named Babson as the number one school for international students, based on quality of education, the student body, graduation rate, and degrees and courses offered. Babson gets a big green tick next to all of these boxes.
Ranked in the top 100 worldwide, Babson also has one of the highest percentages of international students – a massive 28%. Additionally, it offers a total of USD $8.8 million in institutional grants and scholarships each year. From that $8.8 million, approximately 50% of Babson’s admitted undergraduates receive financial assistance with 97% of students’ demonstrated needs being met by the school!
Another bonus when applying to Babson is that you apply and are assessed in the same way as US applicants – there are no separate considerations for international students. If you wish to receive financial aid, you have to make sure your forms are in on time, otherwise you’re going to have to fork out for the fees!
Acceptance Rate: 24%
Average SAT Score: 1260-1450
Average ACT Score: 26-30
Student Population: 3,165
Percentage of International Undergraduates: 28%
US News University Ranking: N/A
International Student Tuition Fees (without financial aid): USD $46,784
University of Southern California
Now over to the other side of the US – the side that receives more sun and more applications from international students than anywhere else. When you look at the picturesque surroundings of a lot of colleges in LA, it’s easy to understand why it's such a popular study destination.
One of the most popular is the University of Southern California (USC). In 2017, USC attracted over 56,000 applications! Its current student body sits at around 44,000, with international students making up 10,571 of that; almost 25%. That’s plenty of people in the same boat you’re in and plenty of people to make friends with!
Unfortunately, however, international students are not eligible for federal or university need-based financial aid but you are eligible for merit-based scholarships. So if you’re keen on West Coast livin’, do your research and apply!
Despite the fact that international students can’t receive need-based financial aid, USC has a history of making education affordable for all, and on average, USC student graduates end up with less debt than their peers.
Acceptance Rate: 16%
Average SAT Score: 1370-1530
Average ACT Score: 29-33
Undergraduate Population: 44,000
Percentage of International Undergraduates: 24%
QS World University Ranking: 132
International Student Tuition Fees (without financial aid): USD $52,283
Mount Holyoke College
Despite the college’s name, Mount Holyoke College is not a mystical, magical place for witches and wizards, but is in fact a real university in the US, and it has some mightily impressive stats for a little-known college that sits on top of a mountain!
According to US News, it’s tied 36th in the National Liberal Arts Colleges rankings, tied 16th for Best Undergraduate Teaching, is ranked 50th in Best Value Schools, and according to Forbes is the sixth best university in the US for international students!
At Holyoke, 52% of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid, while the average amount for a need-based scholarship or grant award reaches a mightily generous USD $32,773.
Holyoke boasts an enviable 55% admissions rate with the total number of students sitting at a quaint and comfortable 2,255. However, unfortunately for all you fellas out there, this is a single-sex school and only women are allowed in, so this will either make it much more desirable for you or much less so. This is something to consider when applying as it will obviously have a great impact on the culture of the college. It really depends on what suits you.
Acceptance Rate: 55%
Average SAT Score: 1310-1510
Average ACT Score: 29-32
Undergraduate Population: 2,255
Percentage of International Undergraduates: approx. 20%
Times Higher Education Ranking: 80
International Student Tuition Fees (without financial aid): USD $47,740
Heck, does Harvard really need an introduction? It’s seriously the best of the best and not just for local students, either.
Harvard makes this list of best international colleges for one major reason beyond its immaculate education, and that’s because it’s one of only five US colleges that offers need-blind admission for international students.
That’s right, need-blind for international students!
This means no matter how much financial support you require, if your application is strong enough and you meet the entry requirements, you’ll get in. Woohoo!
In the last two decades, the number of international students at Harvard has grown by more than two-thirds.
Before you start getting all down on yourself and start saying you’re not good enough to gain admission into Harvard, I've got news for you.
Anyone can gain admission into Harvard, literally anyone!
The only issue: it ain’t easy and you’ll need to work hard! So you need to put your head down, your bum up, and hit those books… HARD!
You’ll need a near perfect GPA (as close to a four as possible) as well as top grades and a solid combination of extracurriculars.
But while a lot of students know you need to be good academically, what many don't understand is that Harvard can be super affordable!
At Harvard, yes the real Harvard, up to 70% of students receive some form of financial aid to help make college more affordable.
Seven out of 10 students. 70 out of 100... you get the get idea.
But wait, there’s more!
60% receive some form of need-based scholarships, meaning they receive a scholarship purely based on their needs – not on merit or strong grades or anything.
Oh and here’s the real kicker, it gets even better!
20% of families actually pay nothing to have their child attend Harvard; one in every five students get free entry! Free entry... to Harvard. I’m not even joking!
So what are you waiting around here for? Start studying!
Acceptance Rate: 5.4%
Average SAT Score: 1480-1600
Average ACT Score: 32-35
Student Population: 29,652
Percentage of International Undergraduates: 20%+
QS World University Ranking: 3
International Student Tuition Fees (without financial aid): USD $43,280
Soka University of America
Like Mount Holyoke, Soka University is situated atop a mountain.
Unlike Mount Holyoke, it was founded on Buddhist principles. Weird, right?! But in the modern era, the school holds no religious faith and is open to top students of all nationalities and beliefs.
A welcoming statistic for all incoming international students is that almost half of the student body (43%) is from outside of the US – that’s the biggest percentage in the whole US of A.
The Southern Californian campus is spread out across 103 acres, and though large in size, the student body is just 419. With simple maths, you can work out that the school has about a quarter acre per student. Plenty of room to spread your wings and explore the great outdoors!
The only undergraduate study option available at Soka is liberal arts, but students can choose from concentrations in environmental studies, humanities, international studies or social and behavioral sciences, so it’s not too limited!
One huge, nay, massive bonus about attending Soka is that in 2008 it became the smallest and youngest university in the world to offer free tuition to admitted students whose annual family income is $60,000 or less.
Over 90% of domestic and international students receive need-based and/or merit-based scholarships.
Nice one, Soka!
Acceptance Rate: 38%
Average SAT Score: 1180-1440
Average ACT Score: 24-29
Undergraduate Population: 444
Percentage of International Undergraduates: 43%
QS World University Ranking: N/A
International Student Tuition Fees (without financial aid): USD$30,642
University of Michigan
If you've heard of University of Michigan, it's probably for one of two reasons:
1. John F. Kennedy once referred to Harvard as "the Michigan of the East"
2. Because it has some of the craziest fans in all of college sports of all time!
Seriously, though, how crazy good must a school be if the JFK is comparing it to Harvard? Well it's pretty dang good and has a track record of producing some incredibly talented students.
Believe it or not, the CEO of Google and the founders of Nest, Groupon, and Craigslist all graduated from Michigan. There's a definite buzz and focus around technology at the university, so if you're looking for a way to get to Silicon Valley, Michigan might just be it.
Beyond academics, University of Michigan also boasts an insanely good football team! And as I mentioned earlier, their fans are seriously bonkers. So, if sport is your cup of tea, Michigan would be a great place for thee... hey, that rhymed. Nice!
As for gaining admission as an international student, you simply follow the same process as any other applicant, though you may be required to sit an English test to ensure you're competent at speaking.
As for financial aid, Michigan is not need-blind, which means it can see your need requirements when you apply. Therefore, if you can afford the upfront costs, this will hold you in good stead. Alternatively, if you're going to struggle to handle the costs, you will also struggle to gain admission.
That being said, Michigan is eager to help students "become blue" if they're good enough, and should your application tick all the boxes – talented, driven, smart, good grades, etc. – then they'll make sure you can afford to attend.
The academic standard at Michigan is high, however, with average GPA of admitted applicants sitting at 3.83 on a four-point scale. Not bad at all, though not impossible.
Put your head in the books and should become a fully fledged "Wolverine" in no time!
Acceptance Rate: 28.6%
Average SAT Score: 1370-1530
Average ACT Score: 29-33
Student Population: 44,718
Percentage of International Undergraduates: 18%
QS World University Ranking: =21
International Student Tuition Fees (without financial aid): USD $59,784
Just as any good blog should, we've come full circle.
We started with NYU in Manhattan and now we've returned to NYC with our second Ivy League college on the list, Columbia.
Yes, yes, I know, it's an Ivy League so it must be super hard to get into and yada yada yada. Well quit your whining because admission is much more attainable than you might've thought. Especially cost-wise.
Seriously, with the fourth largest international student population of any US university, it has to have some benefits for students coming from abroad.
Well, here's one major benefit for you: Columbia guarantees to meet 100% of all admitted first-year students' demonstrated financial need for all four years, regardless of citizenship.
100%... regardless of citizenship... all four years...
Yes, my friend, your brain does not deceive you, you are reading this correctly. No matter where you're from, if you're good enough to gain admission into Columbia, they'll make sure you can afford to be there!
Sound too good to be true? Well, it partially is, because admission rate is a lowly 6%, so you need to work your butt off to earn a spot. But once you do, you'll reap the rewards.
The average award for international students who apply for and receive financial aid is $57,727.
$57,727!!! That's more than most people's annual salary...
Acceptance Rate: 6%
Average SAT Score: 1460-1590
Average ACT Score: 31-34
Undergraduate Population: 25,045
Percentage of International Undergraduates: 19%
QS World University Ranking: 18
International Student Tuition Fees (without financial aid): USD $55,161
# Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, choosing to study in the US is going to be a big move, so you need to pick the school you attend wisely (just as you should anywhere in the world).
However, as an international student there are many extra aspects you need to consider, including the financial support available to you, the cultural fit for you, and the university’s history of supporting international students. Not to mention weather, lifestyle and travel costs.
Above, I've listed an eclectic mix of some of the very best US colleges with a strong history of supporting and welcoming in international students, but by no means are they the only ones.
Many US colleges love to add international students to the mix and embrace multiculturalism, it’s just a matter of working overcoming the obstacles in your way that may be preventing you from getting into the college of your dreams.
Studying abroad is about expanding your horizons, travelling the world and accessing the best education. It It's not about playing it safe.
So, don't be afraid to look and strive beyond your expectations, step out of your comfort zone, and soar to new heights!