Seven Tips for International Students Considering Studying in the United States

An international student shares some of her advice for applying to colleges in the United States and adjusting to life in America.

So, you've decided to study abroad and experience a new place and culture. There's so much excitement, so much to do! But all that excitement begins to fade when you realize just how much there is to do to achieve this goal. However, all that passion is what is going to get you that visa and the experience of your life.

I am an international student in the United States. I came here all the way from Nepal, and since I've been through the process of traveling abroad for college, I wanted to share a few tips that can help you find the right school in the right place and make the whole experience a little more bearable.

There are consultancies that can help you with your paperwork and help you get a visa, but I suggest doing this on your own since it's your money and your education, and working on everything yourself makes your admission process more personal. Your perseverance can help you stay strong while you're abroad and far away from your family because you will have something to hold on to: the hard work you put in to get there.

1. Do not depend on consultancies to pick your school

I say this because I did and it was a disaster for me. The university that I got my visa from wasn't highly regarded, and I ended up transferring to a different school. In fact, the first school I attended recently shut down, so I'm glad I transferred. Do the research yourself. It will save you money and make your experience more personal.

2. Thoroughly research your housing options

As much as a school's ranking and activities are important, you have to make sure you can actually afford to live in the city where the school is located. Yes, most schools have on-campus housing, but sometimes it can be much more cost effective to live off campus. Some schools require students to live on campus for a certain amount of time, and I have nothing against that since it allows you to meet new people and see everything the campus has to offer. But money-wise, it may be much cheaper to live off campus, which also helps you become more responsible, since you'll have to abide by the landlord's rules and make sure your rent is paid on time each month.

3. Look for scholarships

At most colleges and universities, tuition and fees increase every single year, and tuition is often higher for international students, who also have to consider the exchange rate. But money doesn't have to be a barrier to your education. When looking at schools, find out which ones provide scholarships to international students or, at the very least, merit-based scholarships for which you might qualify. Then look for scholarships in your own country for students who want to study abroad. I have seen a lot of grants and scholarships provided by countries such as China, Japan, and some European countries. Apply for as many scholarships as you possibly can to help defray the cost of tuition.

4. Take the SAT or ACT and the TOEFL

Most schools require that applicants take the SAT or ACT, and if you speak, read, and write English well and study hard, that shouldn't be a problem for you. Getting good scores on these tests can help you get into a good school and even earn scholarship money. I didn't take the SAT and I regret it. Many schools also require international students to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), so be sure to prepare for that as well.

5. Apply to at least five or six colleges

There are thousands of colleges and universities in the United States. You want to have options to choose from once you apply. One school might give you a good amount of money in scholarships, but another school could be a better fit and possibly cheaper even without a scholarship. One school might offer the specific major that you're interested in, while another may offer you amazing student-faculty research opportunities. Having options allows you to see that you are wanted. Colleges accept you because they know you can succeed based on your application materials.

6. Research what the campus has to offer

You want your college experience to be full of great memories. You want to make friends and get involved in activities that will help you develop skills for your future, such as teamwork and creativity. Once you've been accepted to and decide to attend a particular school, research what types of student activities it has to offer, such as clubs and athletics. Sports are a huge part of American culture, and if you love a certain sport, college provides a great opportunity for you to either play on a team or join the crowd at a game. Look into the various events and organizations your school has to offer and find the ones that interest you. College allows you to learn through extracurricular activities as well as through academics. Get involved!

7. Prepare for culture shock

You are going to a new place, a place that has its own culture, mores, and values. You should prepare to face them and learn to adapt to them. You may see things that you don't like or aren't necessarily comfortable with, but that does not mean you have to judge them. There will be things that you don't understand, but you can use them as opportunities to start discussions and learn about American culture while sharing your own. For example, I come from a country where we worship the cow. We see the cow in the form of God. But here in the United States, people love burgers and steak, which come from cows, and I embraced that constructively. I do not eat beef, but I don't have anything negative to say about people who do, and I saw it as a chance to tell my friends and fellow interns what it's like where I come from. These differences allow you to experiment with culture. You learn something from them, and they learn something from you.

Are you an international student considering studying in the United States? What are some of your biggest worries, and what things are you most excited about?

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

Tags:
adjusting to college life admission admission advice campus life culture culture shock international students research study abroad visas

About Manisha Shrestha

Manisha Shrestha is an international student from Nepal who is currently pursuing her bachelor's degree in the United States. She is also an intern at Argopoint, a legal consulting firm.

 

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

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Kyla McClain

Kyla McClain

High School Class of 2024

I found CollegeXpress when you partnered with Bold.org for a scholarship. I found your website, put my information in, and got connected. I only wanted to stay in North Carolina [for college] and not move far from home, but you all opened a door up for me. I started researching colleges you suggested for me. On your social media platforms, you also give really good test-taking tips that I used and suggested others to do the same. It helped me a lot on my exams, so thank you.

Casey Kammeyer

Casey Kammeyer

$500 Refer-A-Friend Scholarship Winner

I love the site CollegeXpress; it has been very helpful finding colleges and getting them to send me information. It has also been very, very helpful with finding tons of scholarships. Also, I told many of my friends about it and they love it as well!

Jeannie Borin, M.Ed.

Jeannie Borin, M.Ed.

President and Founder, College Connections

I frequently visit CollegeXpress to answer questions from students and parents. There are countless hot topics in admissions that need to be addressed. I enjoy reading what my colleagues post and gain additional insight from different perspectives.

Kelly Nogueiro

Kelly Nogueiro

Counselor

For me, CollegeXpress has given me a valuable tool to use with my students to explore colleges easily beyond objective data. It helps me find colleges for students that fit their needs and wants that aren’t quite so black and white. It's a wealth of knowledge, and the Type-A side of me loves all the lists and the fact that I know they're coming from folks who know what they're talking about. I share it with colleagues and students alike, and it's always well received.

Samantha Fils-Aime

Samantha Fils-Aime

High School Class of 2019

I love that CollegeXpress has helped me find some scholarships to apply for but also helped me succeed in school with lots of tips. I also really like how they consistently email me about webinars that teach me a lot of things from the comfort of my home!

College Matches