How to study in the USA after high school?

How to study in the USA after high school?

Every year the rankings of the best universities in the world bring, in the first places, universities of the United States. This makes any high school student dream of being able to study in one of these institutions and have one of the best experiences the academic world can offer.

These universities often seem inaccessible because they are too disputed or require a high personal investment, either through complicated selective processes, costly tuition or even requiring travel, moving and living in another country.

However, things are not always like this! It is possible to organize yourself to make the process calmly and also to apply for scholarships, facilitating your entry into the university of your dreams! That is why we bring here important tips for you to apply for a place in American universities as a foreign student.

We have established the following steps:

  1. Search the different options
  2. Look for scholarships
  3. Fill out your application
  4. Apply for your student visa
  5. Prepare to travel

When we talk about American universities, we think about Harvard, Sanford, MIT ... Nothing prevents you from applying for a place in these universities, but it is important to plan to be sure that you will have the time and conditions to do all the necessary steps.

Experts indicate that you should start preparing for an application at a university in the US at least one year in advance. That way, when the time comes, you will not have any surprises. Below is a list of what you need to do in that one year of preparation:

1. Search the different options

We said Harvard, Stanford, and MIT because they are considered the three best institutions in the world. However, the United States has more than 5300 universities and colleges spread across all 50 states. So how do you choose yours?

Here it is important to investigate which ones have the best courses in the area in which you would like to study. For example, if you are interested in working with astronautical engineering, perhaps Purdue University in Indiana is the best option for you: it was there that Louis Armstrong studied, the first man to step on the moon.

So Michael Miller recommends that students make a list of 6 American universities:

  • 2 that are very disputed and can be difficult to be accepted;
  • 2 that you would like to go and where you have good chances to be accepted;
  • 2  "easy ones", where you believe you would be accepted without difficulties.

This way, you are sure to be covering all the possibilities and you can dream of a vacancy in a big institution, but ensuring that you will have a place elsewhere if things do not work out so well in the most famous ones.

2. Look for scholarships

Governments often offer scholarships only to students who are nationals of that country. However, there are other good possibilities to finance your studies abroad.

Look for information with your country's research and science bodies, as many countries offer scholarships for eligible students.

Another tip is to contact directly the universities to which you will apply. They often offer scholarships and grants to students. Do a search on their websites or find the offices responsible for the foreign student's applications and ask for more information.

A third tip is to look on the internet for other institutions offering different scholarships for students in your country or around the world. The US government even has a search tool for this.

3. Fill out your application

Each American university has its own selection process, but in general, applications can be quite complicated. That's why it's important to start filling out all the data once the forms are available.

Despite the differences, some steps are common among institutions:

  • They will all need your diplomas and academic history to recognize your credits and make sure you have done high school. Here, students who do American high school in their own country at a specific school or program have the advantage of already having an American degree and do not need to translate documentation or worry about credit recognition.
  • Another important step is to take an English proficiency test, such as TOEFL, IELTS, CPE, among others, required by universities to prove that you have the level of English required to keep up with college. Here, once again, students who have already done American high school in their country need not worry, because their degree already shows that the student has a good English level.
  • Also required is to make one of the standard tests for admission to American universities. They are the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) and the ACT (American College Testing). Which one you will need to do will depend on which university you choose. These tests are also applied outside the US, in major cities of the world, so it is important to seek out the location closest to you to take your test.
  • To apply, you will still need letters of recommendation from people who have been important in your learning processes, such as teachers, coordinators, and principals of the schools where you studied. Contact these people as soon as possible to see if they have availability and, if they do not, you will have time to find someone else to support your application.

4. Apply for your student visa

To get a student visa, you have to check if the institution is part of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

Once approved, the institution will send you an admission document that you must use to complete the visa application form. This is the I-20 Form, and filling it is required to obtaining an F1 visa, which is the temporary visa for students.

For the consulate interview, pay attention to the following:

  • You will need to prove that you have finished all the processes to be able to study in the USA. That means you need to bring the approval document from a university that is part of the SEVP, in addition to your completed I-20 Form.
  • You will need to prove that you have financial conditions to live in the country during college. This means taking with your bank statements or any other document that proves your financial situation, or even documents that show that you received a scholarship or student aid.
  • The American Consulate also recommends that you bring the documents that show you have the necessary academic performance to attend college there. This means taking your SAT or ACT scores, in addition to your diplomas and school records for the interview.
  • Also, take with you any documentation related to hosting if you already know where you will be staying. To do this, contact the university housing office to find out and get a place in the university residences. Some cities, such as New York, have International Houses hosting foreign students in a friendly and welcoming environment.
  • Depending on the situation, you may be asked to prove that your stay in the USA will be temporary, or even explain how you will use your learning experience when you return to your country. These questions are to make sure you have no interest in remaining in the US indefinitely.

5. Get ready to travel

After the entire application process, celebrate! But do not forget that there will still be many things to organize before your trip.

Make sure you search the internet for information about the university you are going to, the city and state you are going to live in, to understand the culture, how people live, and see places to visit.

If you have never been to the US, it is good to do some research on the immigration process itself, to know which documents to bring and show during the customs clearance.

In addition, you can research how to get a job while living and studying in the United States. During your first year of study, you can work on a university campus, and in the following years, you are allowed to get a job anywhere, which can help a lot when financing your stay.


Now that you're ready, just start your research! Remember that although it is a time-consuming and often complicated process, you need to focus on the happy ending. This is your chance to fulfill your dream of studying in the United States at one of the best universities in the world!

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