International students who want to attend a U.S. university are encouraged to begin the process at least two years in advance. The requirements that they may have to fill vary for each school so a student should choose several schools they want to go to and then contact the schools to see what they require of international students for admittance.

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Students should also inquire about student financial aid that they may get, any loans they might qualify for, and if they are eligible for a campus job.  Additionally, students need to start applying for a U.S. student visa and also obtain whatever permissions they need from their own country in order to travel and live abroad.

American visas are issued at U.S. embassies and consulates and they allow a person to travel to the U.S…  They are not promises a student will be allowed to enter the United States. A visa allows a chance to speak with an immigration agent at a point-of-entry and ask for permission to enter the United States.  Commonly international students will request a F-1 visa if they are single and a F-2 visa if they are married or bringing a dependent with them.  If the student is participating in an exchange program then they will request a J-1 visa.  Students entering the United States for vocational training will request an M-1 visa.  Applications for a visa should be submitted 3 to 5 months before the beginning of the school year.

The prospective international student should see what tests they have to take in order to enter the university.  One test that will most assuredly have to be taken is the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).  The test measures a student’s reading, writing, and speaking ability of English. This test is a requirement at almost every school accepting international student.  There are also standardized tests that all students wishing to attend a U.S. college need to take. The TOEFL can be taken online or in a written form.  Two other tests that may be offered to measure English ability are the International English Testing System (IELTS) and the Pearson Test of English (PTE).  Should the student not be able to satisfactorily pass those tests they may be admitted to a college if they commit to taking a basic English course that emphasizes reading, writing, and speaking English.

Colleges may also require prospective international students to take standard academic tests that all college students have to take.  Tests like the SAT and ACT are common tests in the U.S.  These tests are all multiple choice answers that cover general and specific knowledge of different subject areas. Depending on the requirements of the college, the student may have to take some specific subject area tests.  Usually the student has an option of which subject areas to test in.  Additionally, there may be an optional essay test to complete but some schools require international students to take them.  It’s recommended that students take these tests 12 months prior to the date they want to begin their U.S. studies.

So a quick checklist for international students would be:

  • Start considering colleges 2 years ahead of the school year and apply to several.
  • Contact the college, apply for admission, and complete all necessary tests required by the school.
  • Apply for and obtain the proper travel visa and passport.  Also complete any travel requirements of your own country.
  • Arrange travel to the country and then from the point-of-entry into the United States to the school.