For many people around the world, the United States has always been the promised land of opportunity, hope, and freedom. People who come to this enormous country know that their future is defined by their ability to work hard, which is why it has become such a mecca of higher education over the years. Obtaining a degree in the United States is no longer reserved for the wealthy, but rather the natural progression for anyone who wants to learn more and build a better life. Studying and earning a degree abroad in the U.S. can lead to, quite literally, anything you want it to, and open doors that you never thought possible.
The U.S. has undertaken huge initiatives to boost the amount of international students attending its universities, so nowadays, degree-seekers can enroll in universities and degree programs almost anywhere in the country. Whether you prefer the hustle and bustle of a large city or the quiet charm of the countryside, there are endless options for obtaining your degree in the United States. Three of the most popular locations include:
New York City. Lovingly known as “the center of the universe”, NYC has everything. From international public universities to specialized degree programs, students who choose NYC will have access to any type of degree program imaginable. Education in NYC extends beyond the classroom, and the magnitude of the city fosters the desire to get involved in much more than just academic classes. Don’t hesitate to really supplement your education with extra-curricular classes, internships, or even just through relevant entertainment and social activities.
Chicago. The third largest city in the U.S., Chicago is home to about 50 undergraduate degree programs and over 30 graduate programs, and counting. The “Windy City” is known for being an international hub of transportation, communications, technology, and commerce, so students obtaining their degree in Chicago will have unlimited options to get involved in the latter fields, as well as tap into Chicago’s famous art, music, and comedy scenes.
San Francisco. A smaller-scale option than NYC or Chicago, San Francisco is the newest hot-spot in the U.S. Popular for its booming entrepreneurial and innovative atmosphere, young people from all over the world are flocking to this northern California city to become the next great thing. San Francisco is home to over 25 different universities, including a music conservatory, law school, and art institute, so regardless of your degree pursuits, San Fran has plenty of options.
Degree Programs in the U.S.
The United States has one of the largest higher education systems in the world, and of the top 10 universities worldwide, eight are American. There are hundreds of thousands of ways to obtain a degree in the United States, whether you have an unlimited budget and five years to dedicate to it or nine months and a small budget.
There are four main higher education routes that students can take in the United States: undergraduate school, graduate school, PhD programs, and specialty programs. The typical undergraduate degree program in the United States takes four years to complete, while most graduate or doctorate programs can last anywhere from two to four years, or more in some cases. However, not all students need to give up four years of their lives to obtain an employable degree. Specialty programs, such as cosmetology or construction, can take only 12 to 15 months to complete.
The most popular areas of study in the United States are business, political science, and education, and for all three, only a bachelor’s degree is needed to start a career. Most degree programs in the U.S. supplement coursework with practical internships or related experience, which can come from things like student teaching at a school, interning at a business, or shadowing a local politician. In the U.S. it is understood that classroom education is only one part of the picture, so there is great emphasis on obtaining outside experience.
Most colleges and universities follow a two semester schedule, with first semester going from August to December and second semester running from late January to May. Professors have high expectations of their students, and even more so in private colleges, so be prepared to put the work in. The average higher education institution in the U.S. is directed in English, but the larger the university (and closer to a border), the more options there will be. Spanish and French are also widely spoken in the north and the south, respectively, so if you are wanting to pick up another language or be more connected to your native language, consider studying in one of these areas.
Costs & Affordability
The U.S. is a huge country, meaning that both the cost of living and types of education vary greatly. For students studying in large cities, such as New York City or San Francisco, they can expect to spend anywhere from $600 and $1,500 per month on rent for a shared apartment, and food and transportation will be quite pricey as well. If you are not studying in a huge American city, the cost of living is much more affordable, with average rent ranging from $300 to $700 for a shared apartment and under $200 to $300 per month for food, transportation, and entertainment.
Tuition and other degree program costs vary as well, depending on if you are studying at a private university, public university, or completing a specialty degree program. However, there are many options to help students cover these costs, including scholarships. Students can also subsidize their educational costs with a part-time job while earning a degree abroad in the United States. You will need a work visa to obtain a job in any type of restaurant or retail establishment, but you can get involved in babysitting, tutoring, fitness, or freelance work without a visa too.
Accommodation & Visas
There are all types of living arrangements available for international students in the U.S., and regardless of if you are in a metropolitan or rural area, you will be able to find a living situation that fits your needs. Most students in the U.S. live in shared apartments close to their campus, but many also live in student dormitories, or even at home if their house is close to campus. Living in a homestay is always the best way to assimilate into American culture, but because most U.S. students move out after high school, finding a shared apartment or student dormitory may give you just as good of a cultural integration as a host family would.
International students studying in the U.S. need a student visa to enroll in classes. You will need to obtain either an F-1 or M-1 visa, depending on your type of study, before you arrive in the U.S. through the U.S. consulate in your home country. Most universities in the United States provide assistance with the visa application process, so before applying on your own, check with your advisor or program director.
You can find out more information about visas applications for study in the U.S. in GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Broad Education. The U.S. is known for their very different educational structure, with most universities being much more than just classroom education. The typical American higher educational system also includes student organizations, activities, sports, arts, and professional experiences, creating a much more inclusive way of learning and growing. International students who seek out degrees in the U.S. will have the world at their fingertips, and usually most of these bonuses are included in your tuition!
English-Only. “What do you call someone who only speaks one language? An American!” We have all heard this joke before, and while this is not always the case, it is more often than not the truth. Having one language dominate a society can be both a benefit and a challenge to international students, so try to keep the positives in mind. If your main goal in studying in the U.S. is to become as fluent in English as possible, you will certainly accomplish it, because you probably won’t have many people around you who speak your native language.
Throughout history, people have come to the United States for a chance to really improve their lives and have unlimited opportunities for success. The “American Dream” is still just as much alive today as it was 200 years ago, with people from all over the world flocking to this huge country to make a name for themselves. Obtaining a degree in the U.S. gives you a huge leg up in this process; whether you do it to eventually work and live in the U.S. or return to your native home with a better education, you are guaranteed to be challenged, and ultimately changed by earning a degree in the United States.