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Attending College in the U.S. as an International Student

Introduction

According to the Institute of International Education, there are nearly 1 million international students (students who are primarily citizens of another country) studying in the USA as of fall of 2015 (and these students contribute $31 billion to the US economy). In the past many of the international students studying in the US were graduate students. But in recent years, there has been dramatic growth in students coming to the USA to study at the undergraduate level too.

If you are an international student who has already arrived at a US college you have hopefully made sure that your legal status as a visiting student is all arranged. Most colleges have international student offices to help with these arrangements. And it is really important to make sure you have all of this in order. This website has lots of helpful information about legal issues for international students.

Click through for some other things that may make your adjustment to college life in the U.S. easier.

Finances

While it may be easier to gain admission to US colleges than those of many other countries, the cost of attending college is US is usually very high. Most international undergraduate students pay for college with their own (and family) funds. It is important to recognize that you need to consider added costs for housing, food, clothing, textbooks and other basic living needs. It is quite difficult to work while you are in US as an international student so that is unlikely to be a way to make extra income.

Housing

Most colleges that accept international students have residence halls and many require first year students to live on campus. Actually living in a college residence hall is a great way to meet new people, learn about college life and adapt to the culture of college and the US. It is also good to connect with other students from your country who attend your college. It’s a good idea to balance social life between time with familiar people from your home country and new friends

Using Support Services

Most schools that have international students have an office to provide legal support and other guidance. Many of these offices also sponsor events at which international students can meet and these offices also provide programs with guidance on how to adapt to life in US. Also, most colleges sponsor clubs around all kinds of themes. These are a great way to get connected and adjusted. And finally, use academic support services. If English is not your first language, it will be really important to get help with academics-especially writing assignments.

Local Communities

Many colleges are in fairly big towns or cities. It is very possible that there could be a sizable community of people who come from your country in the local town. Do a little research and find out if this is so. It might be a good chance to connect to others, find some familiar food and people who speak your language.

Insurance and Health Care

If you have any medical or mental health problems, make sure you have considered how you will continue your care in the US. Not every medicine is available everywhere so you will need to figure this out with your health care providers back home and at the college health or counseling center. Also, make sure you have health insurance you can use in the USA. While most schools will provide basic levels of medical and mental health care, if you need an emergency room, surgery or any hospital care, you’ll need to have health insurance-most schools have a plan you can buy and some have plans specifically for international students.

Additional Resources

International Student

U.S. News: 6 Challenges for International Students in College

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text HOME to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, text or call 988.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.

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