How to Apply to US Colleges as an International Student

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Prodigy Finance - October, 09 2023

8 min read

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At Prodigy Finance, we're committed to helping international talent to achieve their education dreams. We offer international student loans to qualified individuals attending top master's programmes in the US.

As an international student, applying to institutions in the US may be a mind-boggling and overwhelming experience to many. The vast array of academic possibilities and resources provided by the American higher education system make it a popular choice for students from throughout the world. The application procedure can initially appear intimidating, though.

We will walk you through the necessary processes in this section so that you can successfully apply to American institutions as an overseas student.

Prepare a list of universities and courses you want to apply for

Finding colleges and programs that fit your academic interests and ambitions is the first step in applying to US colleges as an overseas student. Take into account elements including the institution's reputation, the number of scholarships offered, the campus atmosphere, and the area. Make a list of the colleges that appeal to you the most, then reduce it to a workable amount.

Research colleges and universities

Once you've created a list of suitable universities, it's critical to do extensive study on each one. For overseas students, doing research on schools and institutions is an essential stage in the application process. Visit their official websites to learn more about the entrance standards for international students, browse the course options, and go through the academic departments. Consider the following significant variables while you conduct your research:

  1. Academic Courses and Reputation: Search for colleges and universities with majors and programs that match your interests and professional goals.
  2. Rankings and Accreditation: Look at university and college rankings, such as those released by respectable organisations like QS World University Rankings, Times Higher Education, or U.S. News & World Report. These rankings can shed light on the institutions' general standing and excellence.
  3. Criteria for International Students Admission: A minimum GPA requirement, expected results on standardised tests (such as the SAT or ACT for undergraduate programs), and English language competence criteria are all things to look for. You can decide if you meet the prerequisites for admission by evaluating whether you meet these standards.
  4. Scholarships and Financial Aid: Look into the scholarships, grants, and other forms of aid that are available to students from abroad. Examine both external financial options and scholarships offered by the university.
  5. Location and Campus Facilities: Take into account aspects like the temperature, safety, accessibility to resources, and distance from large cities. Investigate the campus's amenities, including its sports complexes, libraries, and labs.
  6. Career services and the alumni network: Invaluable networking possibilities and potential professional connections can be found through a strong alumni network. Look for organisations that provide strong internship programs, career counselling, and job placement services.

Know the application deadlines

The application dates for each college or university in the United States are unique. It is essential that you are aware of these dates and make sure your application is submitted well in advance. Your application can be denied or put on a waiting list if you miss a deadline. To stay organised and meet all deadlines, make a schedule for yourself.

Prepare and sign up for entrance exams & language tests

Most U.S. colleges and universities require international students to take standardised entrance exams and language tests. These exams serve as a measure of your academic aptitude and English language proficiency.

Entrance Exam for the Course (GMAT/GRE/SAT)

You might need to take an entrance exam, depending on your level of study and the program you are applying for. For various levels of study, the following admission exams are frequently required:

  • GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test): Admission to many business schools and MBA programs requires passing the GMAT. Your quantitative, verbal, analytical, and writing abilities are evaluated.
  • The Graduate Record Examination (GRE): It is a commonly used test for graduate admissions, including master's and doctoral programs. It assesses your capacity for verbal reasoning, mathematical reasoning, and analytical writing.
  • The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test): This test is frequently required for entrance to undergraduate programs. It tests your proficiency in reading, writing, and maths.

Language Tests (IELTS/TOEFL)

Since English is the primary language of instruction in most U.S. colleges and universities, international students are often required to demonstrate proficiency in English through language tests. The two most commonly accepted English language proficiency tests are IELTS and TOEFL.

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System): The IELTS assesses your English language skills in four areas: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. It provides a score on a scale of 1 to 9, indicating your level of proficiency.
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): The TOEFL evaluates your ability to understand and use English in an academic setting. It consists of four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. The test is scored out of 120 points.

To guarantee that your test results are available when submitting your applications, it is imperative to take these tests well in advance. Aim for a score that is equal to or higher than the minimal standards given by the colleges you are applying to. Consider taking the exam again if you don't get the necessary results to increase your chances of getting accepted.

Prepare the necessary documents

In addition to entrance exam scores and language test results, you will need to prepare other documents required for your college applications. One crucial document is the Statement of Purpose (SOP), which is a personal essay explaining your academic and career goals, as well as your reasons for choosing a particular program and institution. Two essential documents you need to focus on are the Statement of Purpose (SOP) and Letters of Recommendation (LORs). Here's what you need to know about each:

Statement of Purpose (SOP):
The Statement of Purpose is a personal essay that provides insight into your academic and professional background, goals, and reasons for applying to a specific program or university. It allows the admissions committee to understand your motivations, aspirations, and how you will contribute to the academic community.

Letters of Recommendation (LORs):
Letters of Recommendation provide an external perspective on your abilities, character, and potential for success in academic pursuits. These letters typically originate from instructors, educators, or other experts who are qualified to comment on your academic standing, character traits, and fitness for the desired program.
Remember, SOPs and LORs play a significant role in shaping the admissions committee's perception of your abilities and potential. Therefore, invest time and effort in crafting a compelling SOP that showcases your passion and goals, and carefully choose recommenders who can provide insightful and positive recommendations.

Fill out the application and attach the required documents

Once you have gathered all the necessary documents, it's time to fill out the college application forms. Pay close attention to the instructions and provide accurate and complete information. Attach all the required documents, including your SOP, LORs, official transcripts, and standardized test scores.

  • Verify every detail twice: Before submitting your application, carefully go over the data you've supplied. Examine your personal information, educational history, exam results, and other necessary information for any mistakes or omissions. Make sure all of your contact details, including your phone number and email address, are correct.
  • Pay the application fees: The majority of schools and universities in the United States demand payment of an application fee at the time of submission. Check each university's unique requirements as the cost differs between colleges. Use the specified payment methods the institution has offered to pay the application costs online. For future reference, save a copy of your payment confirmation.

Submit your application

Before submitting your application, carefully review all the details to make sure there are no errors or omissions. Take the time to proofread your personal statement and any written responses. Pay the application fees as specified by each institution. Submit your application electronically or by mail, depending on the college's requirements.

Fulfil the requirements if accepted

Kudos if you've been admitted to a college or university in the United States! However, there might be other conditions you need to meet before you can enrol. To pay for your tuition and living expenses, for instance, you might need to provide financial information or apply for student loans. For overseas students, there are a variety of financial aid options to consider, including work-study opportunities, grants, and scholarships.

Student Loans for Studying in the US:

You can look into student loan options if you need financial support to pay for your education in the US. Prodigy Finance is a reputable source of student loans for overseas students. For loans designed especially for international students studying abroad, Prodigy Finance is an expert. Here are some important things to think about:

  • Research loan options
  • Determine eligibility
  • Application process
  • Loan disbursement and repayment

Steps after being admitted

After securing admission, there are several steps you need to take to prepare for your journey to the United States:

  1. Get your I-20: The college will provide you with an I-20 document, which serves as a certificate of eligibility for nonimmigrant student status, once you have been admitted. This paperwork is required to get a student visa.
  2. Fill and print out the DS-160 form and pay the SEVIS fees: The DS-160 form is used to apply for nonimmigrant visas online. Correctly fill out the form, pay the necessary costs, and preserve the confirmation page. Pay the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fees in accordance with the instructions as well.
  3. Book your VISA interview slot: Make a reservation for a visa interview at the American embassy or consulate that is closest to you. Be prepared to answer inquiries about your intended course of study and to present the necessary papers.
  4. Give the interview and get your visa approved: Show up for your visa interview on time. Be confident when responding to the consulate officer's queries, present yourself in a professional manner, and bring all required documentation. You will receive your passport along with the visa stamp if your visa application is granted.
  5. Make travel arrangements to the US: Make travel plans to the United States after you get your visa. Search for flights and organise your arrival.
  6. Arrange accommodation: Research upon your accommodation choices, such as off-campus flats or dorms on campus. For help locating suitable accommodations, get in touch with the university's housing office.
  7. Start attending webinars, on-campus seminars, etc.: Participate in webinars or other virtual events the institution is hosting before your classes start. These workshops can give participants useful information about campus life, academic standards, and resources.


Planning and preparation are key components of the international student application process for US institutions. You can improve your chances of getting accepted and pursuing your academic objectives in the United States by doing your research on universities, according to application deadlines, assembling essential documentation, and taking all other necessary measures. Always keep organised, ask for help when you need it, and seize the wonderful chances that the American higher education system has in store for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the English language proficiency requirements for international students?
Most U.S. colleges require English language proficiency demonstrated through tests like TOEFL or IELTS. Check specific score requirements for each university.
2. Can I apply for financial aid or scholarships as an international student?
Yes, but financial aid and scholarships for international students are limited. Research scholarships specifically available to international students and consider alternative funding options like grants, fellowships, or student loans.
3. Do I need to submit my high school transcripts for college applications?
Yes, high school transcripts are typically required. Ensure they are translated into English if necessary.
4. Can I apply to multiple universities in the United States?
Yes, you can apply to multiple universities. Keep track of deadlines and requirements for each institution.
5. Is it possible to work part-time as an international student in the United States?
Yes, international students can work part-time on campus. Off-campus employment may be available through programs like OPT or CPT, with restrictions. Consult your university's international student services office for guidance.

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