Last Updated on January 8, 2023 by Omoyeni Adeniyi
4 Things International Students Should Know About U.S. Universities
Schools in the U.S. are actively becoming more and more diverse, attracting international students from every walk of life. As the global economy grows, it is more important than ever for universities to expose their students to many different cultures—and that’s good news for international applicants. For STEM graduate programs in particular, international students can make up a great deal of the population. It also means financial solvency for many other schools.
U.S. schools now actively court international students, but there are some key differences to be aware of when applying. Many aspects of the American educational system are invariably new, and sometimes shocking, to students from other countries. But don’t let the differences between international schools and those in the U.S. catch you off guard.
The following four points aren’t rules, and they don’t apply to every class or school across the board. But they are good indications of the system as a whole.
1. BE PREPARED TO TALK.
One stereotype about Americans in the international community regards their tendency to talk and talk and talk. Here’s another saying: Stereotypes don’t come from the wind.
In an American university classroom, it is much more likely that a student will be expected to participate by talking about their ideas and engaging in conversation. International students who are used to a stricter, lecture-only atmosphere might be taken aback.
What can you do? You may want to prepare answers and questions in advance of class, particularly if English is not your first language. Look for talking points in your readings, and make sure you are ready to be a chatterbox. Your grade could depend on it!
2. BE OPEN TO NEW CLASSES.
International students may be more familiar with a pedagogy that follows a linear path from basic study of one topic to more advanced lessons, without deviation from the subject. In the U.S., it is more typical for students to have an obligation to take some classes outside of their major. There is a larger focus on creating holistic education and fostering well-rounded graduates in U.S. universities.
What can you do? Think of this as an opportunity to delve into topics that, while not directly related to your major, teach skills that are useful to know in your future field. Engineering majors might want to look into psychology or sociology, which could be helpful in working with others in groups. Sales or debate electives could always be useful down the line, too. Something like a negotiations class or basic marketing techniques could pay dividends when you are trying to get that start-up off the ground. The same is true of literature and art classes that give you creative outlets and improve your ability to connect with peers.
3. IT’S MORE EXPENSIVE THAN YOU THINK.
“Sticker shock” is the term for when you get surprised by the high costs related to something that you are purchasing, and you might get sticker shock when looking at attending a university in the U.S. There is no question that tuition in the U.S. is growing considerably—something that can be identified as a worldwide trend. International students also often pay additional fees that local students do not for their education, not to mention all the added costs of travel and relocation. But the largest issue is a lack of available financial aid options for international students. U.S. students are eligible for a wide variety of government scholarships and loans that aren’t offered to someone from another country.
What can you do? Aid for international students is something that individual universities are prioritizing more and more. The University of Pennsylvania, for instance, allocated $6 million this academic year in funding specifically for undergraduates from outside of the U.S. However, if you do search for international scholarship opportunities online, be wary. There are many scams out there preying on international students.
And while cost of living (and college) may be more expensive in the U.S. than your country of origin, it’s possible that these costs can be reduced by part-time work opportunities on campus or work study programs that pay enough to make a significant difference. Be prepared to work and go to school simultaneously if need be—many Americans do, too.
4. ACADEMICS AREN’T EVERYTHING
In the U.S., students are expected to be involved in extracurricular activities. Outside of your studies, you could be part of cultural or professional clubs, or participate in athletics or the arts. Why? Your grades are just one part of your story, and the other level is one that involves networking and being unique. Part of your reason for attending a college program in the U.S. should be to network with fellow students! These will be your peers throughout your professional life—the people with whom you will forge connections, create businesses and rely on for recommendations. They are also your competition, so as they make connections, make sure you keep up.
What can you do? Think of it this way: Socializing is actually part of what you are paying for. Not all of your tuition money goes to professors and lab equipment. You should take advantage of clubs, teams and other extracurriculars because they can be every bit as important as the knowledge you receive in classes. If you don’t think you have time to join a regular club or society, pick something that has a shorter time commitment, like helping to host a specific event. You’ll still meet people, but a built-in end point means you have more time to get back to your studies.
Culture shock might be something international students regularly face when coming to the U.S. for the first time, but if you are more aware of the difference between American and international universities, at least you’ll know what to do on campus.
7 things you need to know about colleges and universities in the USA
Americans often call the United States an “exceptional” nation – in other words, America is one of a kind. This is a sentiment that’s reflected in its university system, which is famous for being super flexible and decentralized. This has pushed American universities to acquire all sort of quirks (most of them good) that set them apart from their more traditional, exam-centric British and Australian peers.
So if you’re considering studying in the U.S. of A, it’s best to familiarize yourself with what you’re getting into. Here are some of the most notable differences we’ve discovered about U.S. colleges and universities:
1. You don’t really need to decide what to study before university starts
You’re young, and you’re not sure what you wanna do in life. Then U.S. education is perfect for you! For one, you’re not required to declare a major upon university admission. Thanks to the extremely flexible course system, you can pick and choose whatever you’d like learn until you figure out your life mission. Wanna study ballet, or better yet, the politics of Beyonce? Why not? Just make sure to pick your major eventually – preferably in your second or third year.
2. “School”, “College”, and “University” are used interexchangably
In most of the world, “school”, “college”, and “university” are separate things, describing ascending levels of educational institutions. In the land of Uncle Sam, they all refer the same thing. So when an American asks you “What school did you go to?”, he/she doesn’t mean your primary school.
Also, while it’s fashionable to refer to universities as “uni” in the UK and Australia, it would sound totally weird in the U.S. Don’t do it or risk turning into an outcast!
3. Class participation is totally worth it
You may be used to seeing the classroom as a brightly lit bedroom, but you better ditch that thought quickly in the U.S. It pays to well… pay attention in U.S. college classrooms. Why? You can easily earn EXTRA POINTS for answering questions in class, or getting involved in classroom debates. Most classes allocate a small portion of the total grade (say 10%) to classroom participation. So if you snooze, you lose!
4. You have learn to live with others
It’s time to come out of your shell and mingle with others, even to the point of staying with them. This is a financial necessity in the U.S. Single accomodation may be available but is often very costly. Your best bet is to share a dorm room with others. It may be difficult at first, but imagine all the new friends you’ll gain in the end.
5. You gotta get some school pride
Americans are as enthusiastic about their universities as they are about their country. Schools have their unique, individual chants which are loudly and proudly communicated by their students at sports games. Attending these events are almost mandatory rituals for any college student. Before long, your choice of clothing colors will evolve to match the triumphant shades of your university mascot.
6. You’re graded on a 4.0 scale
The U.S. university system features a unique grading system that sets it apart in the English-speaking world. You’ll accumulate a grade point average (or GPA) during the course of your studies. This numerical figure represents the entirety of your academic performance thus far. You get a 4.00 for A grades, and 3.00 for Bs, and so on and so forth. So the better you perform, the closer your GPA is to 4.0 – the maximum attainable and reserved for pure geniuses.
Upon completion of a degree, students may receive a formal distinction. While the UK system relies on first-class honours, second-class honours, and so on, the American honor system is divided into three ranks: (in ascending order) cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude. The GPA needed to achieve each of those distinctions may vary according to university, department, and even subject.
7. You’ll learn lots outside the classroom
Historically and culturally, Americans have always embraced the tenets of a well-rounded education. Students are encouraged to learn a bit about everything and spend time outside the classroom gaining real-world experience. You’ll realize that internships, volunteering, extracurricular clubs, and sports are a huge part of the American educational experience, and the sooner you embrace that, the better – the friends, contacts, and experience you gain through these activities may have a huge impact on your future employment potential.
Nine things every student should know about studying in the United States
So, you’re thinking about going to study at a university in the US? Great! It’s a fascinating and enormously varied country, with a proud history of top-notch higher education opportunities. There’s little doubt that being a student in America is a memorable and highly rewarding experience.
We’ve all seen those US college movies, thinking we have a pretty good idea of what to expect when we arrive. However, Hollywood isn’t always the best at reflecting reality – and considering how crazy some of those movies are, it probably isn’t such a bad thing in this case. Despite this, there’s no doubt that you’re in for a lot of fun, plenty of inspiring lectures, and the chance to meet some great people.
Here is a list of nine things that every student should know about studying in the US, just to clear up some of the misconceptions you may have picked up along the way.
1. University in the US is called ‘college’
In most countries, the word “college” is associated with vocational courses, post-16 education, or the place you go to pick up more free or work-based certifications. In the US, the word college is synonymous with university, which is well worth knowing if you want to avoid confusion.
2. You don’t have to decide what to study right away
In the US, students are expected to take about five subjects per semester and then declare a major (the main subject that you will graduate in). Often, those subjects may have little or nothing to do with your final major. It’s not surprising to find students majoring in robotics, but taking a “minor” course in German, English literature, mathematics or something completely different on the side. This ability to continue to study a variety of subjects is one of the most attractive things about going to university in the US.
3. The first week will be either heaven or hell
The first week of college at the vast majority of US colleges is a chance for students to get to know each other, sign up to clubs, societies and fraternities and attend parties and events held by your college. You’ll be in a whirlwind of disorientation; trying to remember people’s names, keeping up your energy levels and getting lost on campus. Love it or hate it, it’s a rite of passage that seemingly everyone has to go through.
4. Textbooks are crazily expensive
The people producing college textbooks and other reading materials in the US must be laughing all the way to the bank – those things cost an extraordinary amount of money. Luckily, social media groups dedicated to sharing or passing on second-hand textbooks are becoming more common, so you might be able to find some bargains.
5. US college life is laid-back. Grading is not.
There seems to be a massive disparity in the US between the relatively relaxed nature of lectures, the vibe of the student community, and the tough grading structures employed by the colleges themselves. Making even the slightest error with citations or essay structure can be an instant fail, so make sure you check and double-check all the work that you submit.
6. There’s more to US colleges than just the Ivy League
The Ivy League colleges of America are renowned all over the world for their quality and prestige. However, they aren’t the only great universities in the US. Depending on what sort of course or experience you want, it might be well worth looking into one of the other 4,000 quality universities in the US. You might find something better suited to you and save yourself a whole load of money, too.
7. There’s more flexibility than you might expect
US colleges run a policy of high flexibility when it comes to changing your mind about the courses you’re taking and even the college you’re attending. You can change your major as many times as you like if you feel it doesn’t suit you, and you can even swap colleges using your credits without having to pay an extra dime.
8. It’s not as expensive as you might think
US colleges are notorious for being among the most expensive in the world, but this isn’t always the case. In reality, the cost of college in the US covers so much more than it does in other countries – the price is inclusive of medical insurance, accommodation, subsistence and so much more. It’s also always worth checking what financial aid you are eligible for from your university, and any scholarships that you might be able to apply for.
9. College sports matter
If you’re from Europe or elsewhere in the world, it’s likely that your school or university sports teams won’t be that much of a big deal – just some friends meeting up to kick a ball around with the neighbouring university. In the US, however, college sports are a huge deal. You’ll be expected to support your university teams, go along to matches and stay updated on game results. It’s all part of the experience, and it can be a lot of fun to get involved in.
10 Things International Students Should Know About U.S Universities
There are many reasons to choose U.S. Universities above others if you want to invest in your education. With more than 4,000 colleges and universities, the range of choices in the American country is diverse, with many cultural and academic opportunities for international students. An additional advantage is that you will get to communicate with native English speakers, which is a great way to enhance your English speaking skills.
America is well known for having a different set of rules when it comes down to higher education. And you ought to research your college’s regulations before deciding to enroll in one of them. So we have gathered some tips to ease the anxiety of your main question: how to survive in the U.S.A. as an international student? Read on and find out.
1. No universal system of college admissions
You will see for yourself that colleges differ when it comes down to the admission process. None of them has a uniformed way of asking applicants to follow a test-optional policy, submitting SAT/ACT scores, or elaborating their skills through essays. Be prepared for an extremely selective system that pays close attention to the details you provide in your application
2. Associate’s degrees
In the U.S. Education system, there are two types of undergraduate degrees. A two-year degree is called an Associate’s degree. There are different types of Associate degrees. Both the A.A. degree (or Associate of Arts degree) and A.S. degree (Associate of Science degree) are designed to prepare students to transfer into a 4-year college or university. Other Associate degrees, such as an A.A.S. degree (Associate of Applied Science degree), are designed to prepare students to join the workforce immediately following their two years of study.
3. Bachelor’s degrees
The second type of undergraduate degree is called a Bachelor’s degree, and it usually lasts up to 4 years. Over 2,000 colleges and universities offer four-year programs in which students earn a Bachelor’s degree. The undergraduate bachelor’s degree is typically comprised of 120-128 semester credit hours, 60 of which may be transferred from an associate degree at a community college.
During those four years of studying, you will be called a freshman, sophomore, or junior. What’s exciting about the educational system of America is the curriculum of many undergraduate programs. Most of them are based on a “liberal arts” philosophy in which students are required to study courses from a range of subjects to form a broad educational foundation.
4. Master’s degrees
The master’s degree is the most frequently awarded graduate degree in the U.S., with 500.000 students earning it every year. There are many master’s degree programs in the U.S., and students typically spend between two to three years studying to finish’ grad school’. Some master’s degrees can be earned within a year of studying; however, you are obliged to complete six to eight advanced courses and go through an intensive study project/thesis. This phase shapes your researching skills and prepares you well for the big world of employment.
5. Extracurricular activities
If there’s one thing that is surely going to be appreciated both in your application process and once you’re already enrolled in a university – that will be your engagement in social activities. Volunteer work, community work, participation in public events and debates, initiative-taking, and leadership skills; you are expected to have some experience with these sorts of activities and to keep doing so while studying. Ultimately, you will have to join a club, sport’s team, or theatre – whatever it is that provides a sense of creativity to your daily routine.
6. Expenses are not low
Unless you have earned yourself a full scholarship, bear in mind that the costs of studying in the U.S. are extremely high. Tuition in the U.S. is growing considerably— and that is something that can be identified as a worldwide trend. International students also often pay additional fees that local students do not pay for their education, not to mention all the added costs of travel and relocation. During your application, you will be required to prove to the university, to the consular officer, and perhaps to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection that you have sufficient funds to cover your living expenses and health insurance, as well as university’s tuition and fees.
7. Accommodation options
Depending on your financial means, there are three accommodation alternatives that college students tend to follow:
a) On-campus dormitories
Once you enroll in a U.S. school, the Admissions Department or International Student Office will most likely send you a “pre-departure orientation” packet. Options for where to live are generally included in this information.
b) Off-campus apartments
Some U.S. schools do not provide on-campus accommodations for international students. However, an off-campus housing office will assist you in finding an appropriate place to live. Often, the office coordinates activities to help students find a compatible roommate to share expenses
In a homestay arrangement, students are usually placed with an American family within 20 to 45 minutes from their campus. If you choose this option, you will have your own room, and meals will be provided.
8. Popular majors
Many students in the U.S. study Business Administration, Communications, and Social Sciences. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are also popular and generally considered to be more demanding.
It’s important to note that degrees in the U.S. sometimes vary from degrees in your home country, even if they have the same name.
9. Ideal locations
Big cities in the U.S. like New York and Washington D.C. often attract international students. The city you study in is important for acquiring internships. If you study finance, for example, then you probably would prefer to study in Manhattan. But a political science major would have more resources in D.C.
10. The culture shock
Do not be surprised if you notice you’re quickly overwhelmed with the new situation, mentality, and culture in the U.S. Of course, there are differences from every country compared to the other. Still, the adjustment with the American culture takes a whole lot of effort. Make sure to take your time, and socialize with locals every once in a while. They can brief you on how to handle most of the things while being an international student in the U.S.
American colleges are unique for several reasons. Before arriving as an international student in the U.S., it’s important that you understand these differences and choose the university that fits you best. We hope we gave you a proper heads up so that you know what to expect upon moving to a whole new country.