The United States has much to offer in terms of diverse and highly recognized colleges and universities, and the experience of studying at any of them can be life changing. For many students around the world, studying in America is a dream – and with the right preparation, it can become a reality.
It can take almost a year to go through the process of passing entrance exams like the SAT for undergrads and the GRE for grad students, as well the TOEFL for nonnative English speakers, applying to colleges and getting accepted before you finally land in the U.S.
The earlier you begin researching your options, the better. You're already on the right track by visiting U.S. News & World Report, which offers rankings of top universities and tools to find the best fit for you.
U.S. News isn't the only place to look for advice and information about becoming an international student – and just as importantly, paying for study at a U.S. college or university. Here are some other places prospective international students can turn to for reliable information in their college searches.
EducationUSA, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, helps walk students through the whole process, from college admissions to adjusting to life overseas. EducationUSA has advisory centers in almost every country and keeps an updated list of financial aid opportunities for international students.
Students should look up the deadlines for applying for college admissions, visas and scholarships, and don't procrastinate – make a schedule to complete each step of the process ahead of time.
The biggest roadblock for many students is money. Financial aid options for international students are limited but available. In fact, many schools set aside a significant amount of funding specifically for international students.
The Institute of International Education offers a tool for finding scholarships based on your country of origin. They administer the renowned Fulbright Scholar program, the U.S. government's flagship international exchange program.
Pension Real Estate Association also offers generous scholarships, which include mentorship opportunities, to both foreign and American students who are studying real estate at universities in the U.S.
Be careful to avoid scams. If you have to pay an application fee for a scholarship, don't trust it. FinAid.org gives advice on how to stay safe when searching for financial aid.
As soon as you receive your acceptance letters and decide which university to attend, apply for your student visa. Allowing time for processing is crucial, so don't wait. Schedule an interview immediately when you receive the required documents from your university. Visit the U.S. State Department website to find out what you will need to apply, as requirements vary by country.
[Find other scholarships for international students.]
It might take time to build a solid support network in your new city, but a proactive approach to meeting local students is the best way to get the full U.S. experience.
TopUniversities.com offers advice on what services to expect from your school in the U.S. and where to go for support as well as how to cope with the culture shock you might experience in your new environment.
Additionally, many universities offer a "buddy" system that matches new students with volunteer students who are familiar with the school to be there for support while you adjust to life at your new school. Search your school's website or contact the international student office to find out whether or not they offer a "buddy" program.
[Get more advice in the International Student Counsel blog.]
You can also use your new school's Facebook page to find links to clubs and online student communities so you can connect with other students before your arrival.
For questions that arise during your time abroad, Internationalstudent.com offers a wide spectrum of resources on adjusting to life in the U.S., from a blog where students can post about their spring break trips, to advice on how to deal with the U.S. banking system.
Angela Frisk holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities and is a former scholarship recipient. She joined Scholarship America in 2012.