Applying To a US University

There are certain procedures that you must follow when Applying to a US Universty. Essentially the process is the same for most schools, but there are a few twists that international students must consider. Also there are some common mistakes that international students typically make, often at their own peril.

Research and Inquiries

First, begin with a general inquiry, preferably using the Internet. In the modern era, almost everything you need to know about a school and its process would be outlined on the school’s web page. However, sites are not uniform, and some are more user friendly than others.

If you are unclear about anything, or wish information on scholarships, or application fee waivers, or anything, send an email inquiry. Avoid postal letters! We have seen many flattering letters from international students who mistakenly believe that the said letter is equivalent to an application. Grave mistake! Use the forms! You are much more likely to get quick responses from a university when you are a live, actual applicant.

Admission Fee and Transcripts

Second, pay your application fee and have your transcripts sent. Universities are not fond of hypothetical inquiries. It is a common mistake that international applicants make. Sending a resume or a description of your credentials to ask “what is your chance” will not normally get an enthusiastic or timely response.

Universities generally believe you are a serious applicant when you invest the application fee. By US standards, it is a small investment of usually $25-75. If you are applying to several universities that can be a limiting factor. We discuss ways to address the admission fee problem with the strategic approaches.

Transcripts delay applications processes more than anything else. Since you must request all transcripts from every secondary and post secondary institution, and depend on them to forward it, you will have to be vigilant to follow up with that institution.

Similarly, you will have to keep checking on the status of your application with your prospective institution and not take anything for granted. Keep in mind that some institutions will conditionally admit you with certified copies of your transcripts and exam results. However, before you are eligible for an I-20, most will require that you have the originals sent from the source schools.

Standardized Test

Third, test scores should be completed well in advance and directed to your schools of choice. In most cases, TOEFL, SAT or ACT, or GMAT or GRE if you are post grad, will be needed. As a general rule, TOEFL minimums of 79 (web), 213 (computer) or 550 (paper), will be enough for most schools.

The academic test requirements vary widely depending on the competitiveness of the school. However, if you have completed at least 12 credit hours of post secondary education with good standing in an accredited institution that can typically win you admission as a transfer student.


Finally, there is one possible quirk to note. Some institutions will require you to submit financial information prior to admitting you. We completely disagree with that approach and would even advocate that prospective students avoid any such institution. It is not that they are disreputable, but we think it signals a rigid philosophy towards international students and forecasts similarly rigid approaches to other processes where discretion can be exercised.  Essentially, they ask you to prove you can pay, before you can be admitted.

Generally, the steps above are all that is required. Whenever possible, do an online transaction or inquiry, and if documents are to be mailed, use express companies to insure delivery.

Before we leave the subject of Applying to a US university here is a basic strategy that will serve to make your task a lot easier. This strategy helps you hedge your bets and stretch your venture capital. Read Strategically Applying to US Universities to learn more about this application strategy.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Suman Mukherjee October 31, 2013 at 9:36 pm

I am a graduate in computer science and engineering from West Bengal University of Technology in Kolkata, India. I am planning to do my masters in the US. Please guide me in the process for selecting a university and applying to it.
Thank You Professor


Professor_B November 12, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Certainly. If you can send me your email address I will be happy to assist you privately. You must first do the GRE and the TOEFL. Hope you do not have too many backlogs. Once you are at that stage, i will be happy to assist you in the process and to help you get a scholarship.


Suman Mukherjee November 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Thank you Professor,
My email address is


hannah ramirez September 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm

hi! this is a very informative site!
my name is hannah, i’m 25 years old from the philippines. i am a bsn graduate and licensed since 2009. I took the nclex here last april and also have my ielts with 7 obs. I worked at a tertiary hospital in manila for 2 years and just resigned last april. i went to the us last 2011 and stayed for 1 month then again went this year and stayed there for almost three months. went to miami and california just to go around. i have a 10 years tourist visa when we applied as a family all together. i have relatives in the us and i have a us born sister who just came back in the usa last year and now lives with my aunt. she is in high school,just turned 19 years old and in 4th year now. I am planning to take up MSN with Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Track or maybe the Family Nurse Practitioner. I am still trying to figure out what i want. anyway, i would like to apply in a school in the usa for that matter. but i am planning to come back here in manila because my family is here. we also have a business here that has been running for 6 years now. after i graduate i am planning to take the qualifying exam then go back in manila and practice with clinic based physicians in our hometown and i know i should prove this. My aunt who is sponsoring my sister will also sponsor me. she is divorced and she is a pediatrician there for more than 15 years now. I know that i should be able to convince the VO that i will come back here and not stay there as an immigrant. I am planning to present an attestation from the doctors (whom i will be practicing with after i finish my degree) that i have a job after my studies. also i will show the financial assets and bank statements of my aunt. will this be enough? I am looking forward to your reply. Thank you!


Professor_B January 24, 2013 at 9:10 am

As i read the story, I am convinced. I think you can be very convincing. I am usually a hard reader, but I would give you the visa. First reason is that you have used and not misused a B visa for some time. If your intent was to remain in the USA, you had plenty of opportunities to do so. The best predictor of likely visa compliance is previous visa compliance. So I think your story is plausible. Your purpose is clear. Your financial source is credible. Your family ties are strong. Your visa history is solid. Just go to a school that requires the GRE and is fully accredited with face to face classes and you will get the visa. I have no doubt.


Sofía September 11, 2012 at 2:44 am

I am Sofía and I’m fifteen years old. I am fom Monterrey, México.
Since I was about 3 years old, I’ve been learning English. All of the schools I’ve been to were private. So lets say I have a really good English, I speak it very fluently also.
My dream is to go to USA to study college, I may not be a completely straight A student, but I still get very good grades. I understand easily, pay attention and try my best. I am also very enthusiastic. I like making new friends as well.
I have four brothers, my parents excuse is that they don’t have enough money. Right now I’m in high school and I’m trying the best I can to get good grades so hopefully I can apply to a good college and get accepted. But to be honest, I don’t even know how to start. How can I start so in 2 years I can be studying in the states?
Thank you


Professor_B January 24, 2013 at 9:07 am

If money is a problem, then grades need to be EXCEPTIONAL. Yet, your parents will have to produce about half the cost. Start by finding schools in Texas or California or New Mexico. They typically allow Mexican nationals to pay in-state tuition. Second, get a strong SAT score to go with your great grades from high school. That will get you additional scholarships to help offset the cost of tuition. With that, it may be possible, as an estimate, to get to a US university (a smaller and less costly state school) for about $10,000 or less per year with what remains. If you really excel, then some additional scholarship is possible. But free is unlikely these days for all but the very top international students. Hope that helps.


monya August 8, 2012 at 11:01 am

hy name is monya iam from morocco i want to know what are the conditions to study in america?i want to continue mu studies there.i am one of those who are devoted to america.they say that if you believe in something you can do it but..i say you must do it this is me im ready to work harder than before to go to america and discover its culture…i really love america…i need a person to help me pllz iam serious……..anyway im coming america……


professor_b September 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm

With the positive and flattering attitude it can likely mean one thing….you are NOT coming to America. See Monya, professing too much love and admiration for America, hints at an intent to REMAIN in America…and that makes you ineligible to COME TO AMERICA as a student. To qualify for a student visa, you have to be accepted by a US university, then convince the US Embassy that you love that university and not that you love the country so much. You have to show love for Morocco and a clear intent to return to Morocco. Read this section carefully before you go further.


irvin June 27, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Hi am irvin
I am born in south african
How can I study there?
How can I get ma student visa to america
Please help me ,I wan fullfield ma dreams n my career


neville June 28, 2012 at 3:25 am

Hi Irvin,
Please send some time reading through the site that will give you a good start.


sandeep June 16, 2012 at 6:36 pm

hi i m from india . and i just completed my diploma and now i want to do my futher studies in america.what is trhe processer pls tell me and my father is not a rich persson so pls ktell me the fee also..


neville June 19, 2012 at 2:56 am

Hi Sandeep,
Spend some time doing some research of your own. What you are asking is can be answered by a simple online search. Also, one does not need a rich sponsor to study in the US but to most it is a substantial financial under taking. If your intended sponsor (father) does not have the necessary funds then consider pursue your studies at home in India.


ciara kelly May 18, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Hello I am from England and wish to study nursing in america (Florida) does anyone know what sort of qualifications would I need to get on the course? or if anyone has any additional information that would help. I have never studied nursing before but have finally chose the career I wish to pursue. I have studied Business at college in England and been to school so I do have some qualifications. ANY INFORMATION would be a big help. Thank You


Professor_B June 4, 2012 at 8:03 am

To study nursing at a University level, one would first have to undertake the general curriculum, then get admitted to the nursing program after two years. If you have a business degree, chances are you can be admitted to university as a transfer student, with the general or core curriculum classes used as transfer credits. This may cut your time a bit shorter. Without seeing specifics, I would guess you could, if you adapt to the science well, complete a BsN in three years.

Nursing is about the best thing one can choose to study in the USA now, when unsure about a career path, but OK with the components of that vocation. Nursing has great potential for employment, is an awesome, in demand career, and has excellent remuneration rewards. Don’t be afraid to venture.

I see Florida as a lure….but it can be an expensive and highly sought lure. If your intent is lifestyle, then Florida will give it but will also distract from your studies. Not many vocation nurses are able to do the South Beach lifestyle. If you are more open, particularly to the interior of the country, then I would say consider that as the first stop for studies, then Florida as the place to hone your skills post graduation.


Daxupatel November 20, 2011 at 12:50 pm

How many persentage will i have to get for visa right now i m in 12th science. March 3 2012 my board exam there so help me out. And what is process i have to do


Dr. Bird May 9, 2012 at 8:12 pm

The visa is not based on your academic circumstance only. The US embassy determines your suitability for a visa based largely on your personal and financial circumstances as well. There is not set percentage that guarantees a visa.


Debra Dowgill November 17, 2011 at 8:05 am

My son applied to go to Holy Names University in California. We paid the admissions fee, sent the SAT results and all of his original certificates as was requested to process his application. We were applying for a scholarship and got part funding but as we were unable to fund the rest he was unable to take the place at the university. They now will not return his certificates and have informed us that they are the property of the university and will be destroyed after two years. They say that they cannot return them due to student privacy laws as they need to ensure that my son is the one that actually receives them. Is this correct and if so is there any way around it? We are from the UK and he is hoping to go to university here next year so it is important that he has his original certificates back.


Dr. Bird May 9, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Unfortunately that is standard practice. Once a certificate reaches a university, it is never returned. Certified copies are acceptable to most institutions along with an original TRANSCRIPT. In effect, a certificate does not really have a lot of evaluative used in assessment. It may well mean that he has to go back to the original issuing authority to get another certificate. I cannot see the school relenting on this.


Tsering Dolkar Sherpa November 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I am Tsering recently I have got my i-20 so what should be my next step please help me.


Dr. Bird May 9, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Ideally your school should have guided you. Let us know if you were able to get here in January.


Dipak Debnath November 1, 2011 at 8:16 pm

I want to studing in America.
How can I get American visa???
please help me for my good Future.


neville November 2, 2011 at 12:37 am

Hi Dipak,
Yes everyone wants a visa, but before you can get one there are few things you need to do first. Luckily you’ve come to the right place. If you have not already done so spend some time reading on selecting the right US University. After you have chosen a couple then you must apply to the Universities. Then only if you get accepted can you start the road towards getting a US Visa. Please see our Applying and Visa sections of the site for details on the process. Good Luck and let us know if you have other questions.


Victor Parry Barney September 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm

I have acquired a Diploma in Business Administration (Marketing option) at the Institute of Professional Studies, Ghana (West Africa) and will want to apply for a university in the states. what are my requirements? Will the transcript be enough for the application?


Dodeh R. Jones August 20, 2011 at 8:52 pm

A simple wisdom through pen and paper is stronger them a big gun/weapon


A.K.M JAKARIA May 14, 2011 at 9:15 am



Richardson Nyanful January 5, 2011 at 9:29 am

help me study in usa to enlighten my future


JEAN October 11, 2010 at 9:33 pm

am a kenyan, can i get admission to american universities?


Umair Sattar July 17, 2010 at 7:46 am

How can I Get addmission in American Universities.
Actually i m Asian


claris yufenyuy April 20, 2009 at 12:57 pm

wanted to apply to attend the seminar but was late to apply and for those who have succeeded in applying ,they should take it seriously.may God bless us all


Lekeanyi Kenneth April 5, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Some students find it difficult to take English Language Tests, since the services may be limited to them. Addition to that, internet classes can be such expensive to some students from developing countries.
Some students from Anglo-Saxon Universities thought it unwise to still take English Language Examination since their entire studies have been in English


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