Shelves with books, US flag box, UK flag box, phone booth picture, and container

6 Common Misconceptions About US Colleges and Universities

US higher education is world-renowned and international students come to America for school every year, but there are some misconceptions that need debunking.

When thinking about studying abroad or attending an American university, our minds rush to some of the best educational institutes in the world. But there are several notions that have stuck with international students when it comes US higher education. While deciding to study abroad, the misconceptions can cloud our judgment as international students, and we often feel slightly frightened. These misconceptions are not only harmful to the prestige of these great universities but could also affect your future career if you choose not to pursue this opportunity. Thus, it’s very important for me to address some of the common misconceptions international students have about studying in American Institutions.

1. Study abroad is expensive

It might appear to be expensive compared to studying in your own country, owing to the US’s world-renowned reputation in higher education. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pay it all on your own. There are need-based and merit-based scholarships (often specifically for international students) that will take some of the financial burden off your shoulders. Other options you can consider include looking for public universities and community colleges as there’s typically a large difference in the tuition costs compared to private universities. You shouldn't worry about the fees and instead focus on building a sound academic and extracurricular profile to get the best scholarships in your basket.

2. You’ll feel left out and isolated

When it comes to studying abroad, there always lies the fear of missing out and not being included in friend groups. As international students, we fear we may end up alone and isolated due to being a different ethnicity and having different cultural norms. Likely to your surprise, American universities have quite a good percentage of international students coming from varied backgrounds to their campuses each year. There are also student cultural societies and other on-campus resources universities offer so you don't feel left out. You’ll find on most college campuses in the US that students are humble and practice inclusivity. You’ll come out of the experience with great friends for life. Just make sure you join peer groups that motivate and understand you.

Related: List: Colleges With the Largest Enrollment of International Students

3. The application process is bothersome

I actually believe the application process is rather favorable for international students. In the admission process, American colleges and universities have a holistic approach toward application review. This process evaluates candidates based on their academic performance, extracurricular and volunteer work, and personal essays, but it also allows international students to share their stories and show the university the qualities that aren’t limited to academics. Admittedly, the application process isn’t universal to all US schools, and sometimes there may be extra requirements for international students to submit—but it should still work for you. Start doing activities that interest you and align with your career plans to build a standout application. 

4. International students don't get any attention from professors

This is a super false assumption. One of the main reasons why American universities are often a #1 priority for international students is because of the faculties. The professors are almost always experienced mentors with a sea of knowledge to share with students. You won't likely ever encounter any scenario where a professor will behave differently toward you in a negative way or ignore you because of a different national background. Instead, they’ll likely offer you extra help and share some resources to get a hang of their way of teaching. Rest assured, they’ll offer you their wisdom with the same greatness they offer to your classmates.

Related: 5 Colleges With Inspiring Faculty Members

5. Bullying is common at US universities

This is a misconception that’s very stereotypical in nature and something international students observe a lot in American movies. Somewhere in the back of the class, we’re scared about how we can be easy prey to bullying as we may look, dress, act, or speak differently from our varied global backgrounds. Bullying is experienced in schools of all levels around the world, and it continues to be a major problem in higher education institutions too—but no more or less at American universities. However, American schools almost always have anti-bullying policies to prevent it, and on-campus authorities monitor the college life atmosphere closely, making it a safe place for all students to grow.

6. US schools only accept students with outstanding academic records

As stated above, when reading through applications, US universities don’t solely focus on test scores or academic performance. I won’t say they don’t matter, but your achievements outside the classroom also matter. Be attentive to both your academic studies and outside hobbies and passions. Universities usually have an expected minimum GPA or English-language proficiency as a requirement for international students, so when applying, be sure to check if you have the desired scores. And remember not to sideline your studies in the chase of extracurriculars—they both matter.

Related: Which Admission Tests Should International Students Take? 

Don't let these misconceptions scare you away from applying to world-class American universities and colleges. Do your research when it comes to selecting the right fit for you and find all the scholarships you can. Give equal importance to your classroom training and learning outside of school in the form of extracurriculars, volunteering, sports, and internships. Invest your time wisely, and don't forget to enjoy the process amid all the work you’re doing. Let’s let go of these misconceptions about American universities and show the world all the wonders international students can do.

For more US university search help and admission tips, check out our International Students section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

college admission college search international colleges international students study abroad

About Varnika Dhyani

Varnika Dhyani

Varnika Dhyani is a student who aspires to bring the best of stories to readers. Most of her writings are personal blogs and cover her perspective. She has a thing for the dramatic in stories and always looks for ways to embrace her creative side. She’s dedicated to sharing with the world the little things that lead to bigger changes. 


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo


Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Fernando Ponce

Fernando Ponce

High School Junior

College is a way of life that helps us find out who we are as a person, and CollegeXpress is a great way to stay connected with our future, even for students with little time on their hands due to the challenges of high school we face.

Rose Kearsley

Rose Kearsley

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has seriously helped me out a lot, especially when it comes to scholarships and studying for tests like the ACT. I also really love the financial help. It’s a little harder to pay because I live with a family of eight, so any help is appreciated. Thanks for this opportunity!

Jada Bohanon

Jada Bohanon

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me find scholarships for the colleges I applied to. It was very hard for me to find scholarships in the beginning that I was qualified for. My teachers recommended this website to find some, and not only did I find some scholarships but I also got to look into some schools I hadn’t heard of before. I was very happy to have discovered this website, especially with the coronavirus spreading all over as I can’t really go visit many colleges.



High School Class of 2023

Being a sophomore in high school, I never really worried about college. I thought it wasn't important to worry about until senior year. Through this program opportunity I came across, I realized how important it is to start looking at colleges early and start planning ahead. CollegeXpress has opened my eyes to what colleges require, what colleges are near me, and what they offer. The daily emails I get from CollegeXpress really help me look at the different options I have and what colleges I fit into. Without this website, I would not be taking the time out of my day to worry about what my future will be nor what opportunities I have. I could not be more grateful for such an amazing and useful website. It's thanks to CollegeXpress that not only me but my family now know how much potential I have in to getting into these colleges/universities that we thought were out of my reach.



High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me by opening my eyes to new opportunities. I learned about such easy ways to get financial help to achieve my dreams while also learning about myself and who I truly am. I know this isn't a very long explanation of what CollegeXpress has done for me, but nonetheless, I believe it's crucial to how I developed as a person throughout my time as a college student.

College Matches