US tuition fees
In terms of fees, US universities do not tend to differentiate between domestic and international students. Public universities charge lower fees for students from within the same state compared to everyone else, while private universities usually have one set fee for everyone.
However, fees do vary significantly from university to university. Studying in the US certainly won’t be cheap, but most US universities are very good at providing accessible information about the expected cost of study – including tuition fees, course resources, accommodation, food, insurance and other expenses.
There’s also a good chance you will not have to pay the full tuition fee amount. At many universities in the US, a majority of students receive financial aid, via various grants, scholarships, loan and work-study schemes.
US financial aid
US financial aid is usually supplied based on two distinct criteria: merit-based and need-based. Need-based aid is based on an assessment of the student’s financial circumstances, while merit-based aid considers their academic grades, athletic performance, involvement in organizations and other outstanding talents.
While international students are not eligible for federal aid provided by the US government, many universities in the US provide their own aid schemes – both need- and merit-based. Six US universities also offer fully need-blind admissions to domestic and international students: Amherst, Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, MIT and Harvard. This means students are accepted without any consideration of their ability to pay, and the university then pledges to contribute as much as is necessary to enable them to attend.
If you want to get an idea of what US financial aid you’re eligible for, use the ‘net price calculator’ on university websites (all institutions are required to offer this service).
US university applications
To start your application to study in the US, you will need to apply directly to each of the universities you’re interested in. Remember that athletic recruitment process and sports scholarships follow a slightly different timeline to regular applications, so it’s worthwhile checking the application deadlines early (1-1 ½ years before enrolment) to avoid missing out.
Entry requirements for each university are different, but most involve either completing an admissions test or essay, the SAT or ACT admissions tests, and providing recommendation letters from teachers. On top of this, most universities ask for a transcript of your grades and a personal statement.
If you are accepted you’ll be entered into an international student database called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), and sent a copy of the information stored on this, which you will need to check for accuracy.
It’s also important to ensure that you pay the application fee (the SEVIS I-901 fee) for this database service, which will be US$200. A few universities also allow international students to apply for free online. The university will then provide you with a Form I-20 to present to the US embassy when you attend your visa interview.
US visa requirements
You will then be ready to apply for your F-1 non-immigrant visa. In order to obtain this you will need to arrange an interview at your local US embassy, following the US visa requirements process below:
- Pay the MRV visa application fee of US$160 (the embassy will tell you where you should pay this).
- Complete a DS-160 form online, uploading a photograph.
- Bring to the interview your acceptance letter, proof you’ve paid all the fees and filled in the right forms, the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, which is a Certificate of Eligibility, and a passport which doesn’t expire until six months after you complete your degree.
- The decision to give you a visa will be in the hands of the consular officer. Their decision will hinge on three things: whether you can financially support yourself, whether you can show you can and want to return home after graduating (getting a work visa is a whole different process), and whether you can prove your academic results to date.
- The last of these may involve you proving your proficiency in English. You will also have to provide proof of this to your university at the application stage.
- Additional documents may be requested to establish your academic preparation, your intent to depart the US upon completion of your course of study and how you will pay your financial costs, so make sure you have these with you when you go to the visa application interview.
- Additional demands will be made if you have a criminal record, or you’re an expert in certain areas of science and technology.
- You can receive your US study visa a maximum of 120 days before your course’s start date, but processing can commence before this date. You cannot actually enter the country until 30 days before the beginning of your course, unless you have a visitor visa. This last stipulation also applies to those who would normally not require a visa for short stays in the US.
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