10 US universities with the most international students | Top Universities

10 US universities with the most international students

By Sabrina Collier

Updated June 1, 2023 Updated June 1, 2023

One of the many benefits of studying abroad is the opportunity to meet other international students and making lasting friendships with people from various walks of life, making for a truly mind-opening experience.

If you’ve got your sights set on studying in the US, you’re not alone – it’s the world’s most popular study destination, attracting a record high of 974,900 students in 2015 according to the 2015 Open Doors report, with this number likely to reach one million in the near future. This obviously sounds like a lot of people to fit in, but bear in mind that these students will be spread out across 4,500 or so degree-granting institutions (and 9.834 million km²).

Which US universities attract the highest numbers of international students? Read on for an overview of the top 10 US institutions for the diversity of their student bodies, based on the ‘international students’ indicator of the QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017. This indicator assesses each the proportion of international students at each university. Note that only US universities featured in the QS World University Rankings are included in this list.

1. Illinois Institute of Technology


Illinois Institute of Technology


Ranked 15th in the world for proportion of international students (and 401-410* overall)

The leading US university for international students is Illinois Institute of Technology, also known as Illinois Tech or IIT, which receives a perfect score of 100 in the ‘International Students’ indicator of the rankings. Located in the fast-paced student city of Chicago, the university’s total enrolment of almost 8,000 students includes over 1,000 from minority groups. IIT’s graduate school is particularly diverse, with 65% of graduate students coming from overseas and 100 nationalities represented overall in IIT’s student body.

2. Carnegie Mellon University


Carnegie Mellon University


Ranked 24th for proportion of international students (58th overall)

Achieving a near-perfect score of 99.8 for its proportion of international students, Carnegie Mellon University is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is home to 13,650 students representing 114 countries, with 58% of graduate students coming from outside of the US. As well as having satellite centers in Silicon Valley and Manhattan in the US, Carnegie Mellon was the first US university to open a campus in Australia (in Adelaide) and it also runs an undergraduate branch campus in Doha, Qatar.

3. Stevens Institute of Technology


Stevens Institute of Technology


Ranked 51st for proportion of international students (651-700 overall)     

The third-highest ranked university in the US for international students is Stevens Institute of Technology, which markets itself as ‘the innovation university’. Located in Hoken, New Jersey, the university has a diverse student population, drawn from over 50 countries worldwide. Its International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) aims to ease the transition for overseas students by assisting them with official visa forms, as well as offering cross-cultural exchange programs. 

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Ranked 65th for proportion of international students (1st overall)

The world’s top university in the QS World University Rankings, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) achieves a strong score for the diversity of its students, and is also the highest-ranked US university in the indicator assessing the proportion of international faculty members. Some 3,289 of MIT’s 11,331 students are international, including 42% of graduate students. The university also welcomed 539 exchange, visiting and special students in 2015-2016. As well as a prestigious education, the university is known for its need-blind policy and generous financial aid, meaning that any student granted admission will also be sufficiently supported to attend.

5. The New School


Ranked 67th for proportion of international students (601-650 overall)

With around 32% of its students coming from overseas, and around 116 countries represented, The New School was named the most international university in the US in the U.S. News & World Report 2014, and is now second in that list. Located in the Greenwich Village area of New York City, The New School focuses mainly on the arts, social sciences and humanities, and its famous former students include the likes of Bradley Cooper and Marc Jacobs.

6. Northeastern University


Ranked 70th for proportion of international students (joint 361st overall)

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Northeastern University has 18,000 undergraduates, of which 3,400 are international. The university prides itself on having a global outlook. Examples of this in practice include a cooperative education program that integrates classroom study with professional experience on seven continents, and a comprehensive study abroad program. Northeastern also opened its first international campus in Toronto this year, and has regional campuses elsewhere in the US, including Silicon Valley.

7. Columbia University


Columbia University


Ranked 89th for proportion of international students (20th overall)

Columbia University is another of the top universities in New York City to have a large number of overseas students, with 32% of its 30,300 students coming from outside the US. Among the global initiatives taking place at the university is the student-led Columbia University Partnership for International Development (CUPID), which aims to enable multidisciplinary discussion, awareness and action in the field of multinational development and relief.

8. Rice University


Ranked 107th for proportion of international students (90th overall)

Moving on to Houston, Texas, and the most recent figures from Rice University indicate that almost half (3,298 out of 6,623) of its students came from abroad, with a growing number in recent years. Rice is considered to be the most selective institution in the state and attracts students with its strong student-faculty ratio (six to one), its high level of research for a relatively small university, and its applied science programs.  

9. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)


Ranked 112th for proportion of international students (5th overall)

Joining its tech school rival, MIT in this list of the most international US universities is the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which has a student population of only around 2,255, and also receives a strong score for its high proportion of international faculty members. It has a very good student-faculty ratio (three to one) and achieves third place in the entire index for this indicator.

10. Georgia Institute of Technology


Georgia Tech


Ranked 114th for proportion of international students (71st overall)

Concluding our list of the 10 top universities for overseas student enrolments, more than 3,000 of Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)’s 20,600 students come from outside the US. The university also runs five satellite campuses, including the Georgia-Tech Lorraine campus in Metz, France, as well as international exchange programs in partnership with universities such as the National University of Singapore.

*For information about ranking categories, and answers to other frequently asked questions, click here.

Want more content like this? Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed.

This article was originally published in October 2016 . It was last updated in June 2023

Want more content like this Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed.

+ 58 others
saved this article

+ 59 others saved this article

Explore Events

Get assisted by higher education experts

Our expert teams can help start your academic journey by guiding you through the application process.

Related Articles Last year

Most Shared Last year

Most Read Last year