How does University system work in the US?

Key Points 

  1. What kinds of universities are there in the US? 
  2. How do you apply to study in the US? 
  3. Is it possible to transfer credits from a university in my home country to a US university? 
  4. English language requirements for US universities 
  5. How much does it cost to study in the US? 
  6. What scholarships are available for international students in the US? 
  7. How do I apply for a student visa for the US? 
  8. As an international student in the US, can I work during my studies? 
  9. What can I do after I graduate in the US? 
  10. Are there any special health insurance rules for international students? 
  11. What does the term “major” mean in US universities? 
  12. What is GPA? 

The US is home to more than 4,000 higher education institutions, including eight of the top 10 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022. 

Its size and global reputation has made the US the number one study-abroad destination in the world for international students, with the biggest numbers moving from China, India, Saudi Arabia and Canada for their studies. The most popular subjects for international students in the US are business and management, engineering, maths, computer science and the social sciences. 

But with thousands of universities, huge differences in the style and the cost of institutions plus a rigorous college application process, many prospective international students find the idea of applying to study in the US overwhelming. 

If that sounds like you, use this guide to help demystify the process of applying to university in the US.  

What kinds of universities are there in the US? 

There is a broad range of types of higher education institutions in the US, with something to suit every student’s interests. Before you begin, one thing to note about the US: the words “college” and “university” tend to be used interchangeably. 

The most prestigious collective of colleges, the Ivy League, includes Harvard University, Brown University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Columbia University, Yale University, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. Together, these eight schools received more than 300,000 applicants for the Class of 2021, and the average acceptance rate was 6.1 per cent. 

US colleges can be either privately or publicly funded. Most of the well-known institutions in the US, such as Harvard University, Stanford University and Yale University, are private non-profit institutions that will have higher tuition fees, but usually more financial aid opportunities to go along with the added costs.