When you’re thinking of applying to a college or university in the U.S., you want to know what it is like to be a student there. Depending on where you’re from and on the lifestyle in your home country, going to school in the U.S. can seem strange and confusing if you don’t know what to expect before moving there. So, let’s crack down the key facts every international student needs to know about studying in the U.S.
1. What and where you study matters. A Lot!
Studying in the U.S. can be a great adventure, but it all depends on what and where you choose to study. The discipline and the university may make or break your study abroad experience. So, make sure you are choosing a subject area that you have a genuine interest in and that you do some background research on American universities.
To make things easier for you, we want to recommend some universities, like:
- Southern New Hampshire University
- Western Kentucky University
- University of Wisconsin-Superior
- West Texas A&M University
- University of South Florida
Also, it will help you to know that the most popular study options in the U.S. are:
- Bachelors in Geography in the U.S.
- Bachelors in Special Education in the U.S.
- Bachelors in Finance in the U.S.
- Bachelors in Film, Photography & Media in the U.S.
- Bachelors in Criminology in the U.S.
2. There are big differences between college towns and commuter cities
Social life at your American college may depend entirely on the type of city your university is set in. The type of school, the size of the city, and the students there will change and affect your life beyond the walls of your classrooms.
- College towns are widespread all over the U.S. They are often small towns which have been ‘conquered’ by university buildings, events, and associations. Most residents are students, staff, and faculty members of the university.
- Commuter cities mean just the opposite. Commuter cities are usually much bigger, with a minor presence of university and college students. Students and staff members at the universities tend to commute from the neighboring cities or towns to go to the university, and the university is generally located in a small neighborhood by the campus.
Choose one of the two based on what kind of student you are and on which environment helps you thrive.
3. University tuition can be pricey in the U.S.
American universities are known to have massive tuition rates. Depending on what kind of school you attend, this rate can dramatically vary. Broadly speaking, American universities are divided into two distinct categories when it comes to their tuition rates and payment structure:
Students who go to universities in the U.S. find various means to fund their tuition cost. From finding scholarships to using loans, coming up with a budget plan before going to study in the States is key.
4. Classes are more relaxed, grading is not
Throughout school years, it is possible that you’ve got used to some stiff classroom rules; you show up on time, never miss your classes, and always keep on top of your assignments.
If this sounds like you, smile! You will be well-prepared and ahead of your fellow American classmates, if you maintain this attitude.
In the U.S. you’ll notice, strangely, that students seem to work their classes into their own schedules, showing up when they choose, as they choose, and having a laid-back attitude toward their course responsibilities and expectations.
But this should not be mistaken for laziness and slacking. American professors don’t mind a causal attitude, as long as you have something to show for it. If, however, you’re too relaxed to study, they will know it right away and soon enough you’ll be wagging your tail around their office for a re-examination.
Know also that In the U.S., your grades and GPA determine everything. Your Grade Point Average (GPA) is an average score based on the grades and results of every class you’ve taken during your studies.
5. Your first week of classes will be like ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’
In the U.S., they have ‘Orientation Week’ or ‘Welcome Week’. During Orientation Week, students are introduced to their university courses, tutors, and to their peers.
You can call it a running-around week. In theory, this is a time for you to make an idea about the school and to find your way around campus. In practice, you’ll feel pretty dazed and confused. You’ll end up at classes you’re not supposed to be in, hungover from last night’s party, where you made some new friends whose names you don’t remember. Yes, yes! It will be wild.
6. U.S. universities have great student services
Luckily, all the confusion of the first week can be easily cleared. University staff members understand how challenging being a newbie is, as they have met many students who have had the same struggles you have.
That’s why American universities have set up services that are available to all of the students, which include:
- Course registration and advising
- Financial aid
- Career advice
- On-campus psychiatry and counseling
You should make the most of these services. Having access to an extensive student services system at your university can help you make your college experience fun, successful, and manageable. And remember, it’s ok to have a mild anxiety episode once you’re there. The new, even if good, always scares us a bit because it takes us out of our comfort zone.
Ready to study in the U.S.? Don't forget about the American student visa!
If you are an international student you will need a visa to study in the U.S. Visa requirements depend on your nationality so be sure to check them. Here are some links where you can find this information: