Study in the USA
Why choose to study in the USA in 2022?
A simple glance at any global university rankings list will immediately tell you why studying in the USA is desired. The top rankings are dominated by US institutions. And, with nearly 5000 colleges and universities to choose from, the USA offers choice as well as outstanding quality.
No wonder that more international students choose to study in the USA than in any other country in the world. Take the first step towards joining the world’s largest international student community by reading our guide below:
Top 5 reasons to study in the USA
Over the years, the USA has firmly established itself as the world’s number one destination for international students. Here’s why:
US Academic excellence
American universities dominate all of the global university rankings and a US diploma is recognized by institutions and employers worldwide. The Times Higher Education World University rankings for 2021 have 8 US institutions in the top 10. There are 37 in the top 100. The QS World University Rankings for 2021 have 5 in the top 10 and 27 in the top 100.
Flexibility of US HE system
The program structure in the USA, especially at Bachelor degree level, is very flexible. Students who may be unsure of their future career path may not have to declare this major at the outset. Students also have a lot of freedom to change their major during their studies, without losing credits.
Students may choose an interdisciplinary program, which allows students a lot of flexibility to choose the classes they follow. Interdisciplinary studies allow students to focus on acquiring knowledge in different subject areas, sometimes far apart. In doing so, you will develop broad knowledge and adaptability. Skills that many employers value.
Alternatively, students who have interests in two fields may opt for a double major. A major and a minor is also an option. Both of these options broaden students’ education, enhance their skills and increase their employability at the end of their studies.
Undergraduate students even have the chance to opt for a 2+2 system. Starting in a community college and then transferring to the third year of a 4-year university. Alternatively they can complete the full bachelor program in a 4-year institution.
Studies at graduate level also offer greater flexibility in the USA than in many other countries. Often there are opportunities for students to switch to a different field of study entirely for their Master’s. This is particularly the case with business with many engineering students. Many take management studies at graduate level to boost their career prospects.
Work and study in the USA
There are different ways that African students in the USA can gain work experience, both during and after their studies. Options include:
- Paid and unpaid internships
- Co-Op – a compulsary internship that forms an integral part of the program. Typically Co-Op adds an extra year to the length of a Bachelor degree. Placements are nearly always paid.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) – allows all international students to apply for post-study employment related to their field of study. This lasts for a period of up to 12 months, 36 months for Science, Technology Engineering & Mathematics graduates.
Cultural diversity in the USA
The USA is the ultimate melting pot and was built by welcoming students from around the world. When studying in this culturally diverse environment, You will develop valuable soft skills, much sought after by large employers. You will have the opportunity to build your own global network of contacts. That could turbo boost your career prospects in the future.
The US Campus Experience
You will have access to a lot of great on-campus facilities wherever you choose to study in the USA. There are plenty of opportunities to join clubs where you will meet like-minded students.
Studying in the USA can be among the most expensive study options in the world, but it is also an investment that provides unparalleled opportunity for building future career prospects. US institutions invest in state-of-the-art campus learning and recreation facilities. If you manage to get a scholarship to study, it can help with on-campus living costs.
Higher Education System
The Higher Education System in the USA
Bachelor degrees in the USA
The Bachelor degree will typically take 4 years to complete. A US Bachelor is different from those offered in many other countries especially in the first two years. During that time you will take a number of General Education classes that may seem unconnected to your chosen major.
One of the core beliefs of the US system is that a broader education gives a wider range of perspectives. Which will help you to pioneer innovation in your field.
During the first two years of general study, you will have more flexibility to change your major. And you don’t have to restart from the beginning!
The flexibility of the US system also allows you to select a double major or a major and a minor. That means if you have interests in two different fields of study you could choose to study both. This benefit is unlike the reality in most countries where you would have to choose one or the other.
For example, you may decide to study computer science as your major but with a minor in business administration. Opting for a double major or a major and a minor should make you more employable. But it will also mean more hours of study!
Once you have completed your Bachelor degree, the next step would normally be a Master’s or MBA. These qualifications typically take 2 years. However, you may sometimes find accelerated program options. Some US universities offer 3+2 options, sometimes in partnership with another university, where a student will complete the Bachelor and Master’s in 5-years, rather than the normal 6 years, saving time and money!
An excellent example of this is Seed partner institution, Ohio Dominican University, which offers 3+2 routes in engineering in partnership with the University of Dayton. Other universities may offer accelerated 1-year Master’s programs – these are highly intensive 12-month programs, similar to the standard Master’s offering in the UK.
Community College or a 4-year university
For undergraduates one of the first decisions is whether to start in a community college or a 4-year university.
A community college offers the first 2-years of a Bachelor’S and then, normally, you would transfer. Starting in the third year of a university to complete the remaining 2 years of the Bachelor degree. The advantages of starting in a community college are many, including:
- Lower admission requirements
- Lower tuition fees – 2 years’ tuition fees community college is less than a 1 year at a university. This is one way to reduce the cost of study in the USA
- Often (but not always) you will find that you have smaller classes, especially when compared to a large, public university. This is important for non-native English speakers as you have a greater chance to interact directly with the professor.
- Strong academic performance during your 2 years’ at a community college can enable a transfer to highly ranked institutions. It may also make you eligible for attractive scholarships.
- Additional learning support services for students who need it – this is especially important for international students whose mother tongue is not English and whose schooling system may not have developed the core study skills that students need to thrive in the US system.
- You will be eligible for OPT after completing 2 years at a community college and again after completion of your Bachelor. This gives you an opportunity to gain one additional year of professional work experience compared to studying at a 4-year university.
A community college route to a Bachelor’s is exactly the same as spending four years at one institution.
Of course, there are also advantages to spending all four years at a single university. If there weren’t, why would anyone choose this route:
- Social advantages – those students who become your friends in year one are likely to be freshmen (first year) students like yourself. You will be together for all four years of your program. If you switch from a community college to a university, you may have to make friends again.
- You may be able to select a Bachelor degree with Co-Op included. While this will increase the degree program to 5 years, this includes one year of professional paid experience. It may be an integral part of the Bachelor degree. You will get a lot of assistance and advice from your university to help find a suitable placement.
- If you merit a scholarship from the start, you should be able to maintain that scholarship through all four years. This option may be just as affordable as the community college route. The advantage being four-years at one university.
- Sometimes those opting for the community college route may actually take more time than 2+2 (4 years). Especially if there is no specific Transfer Agreement Guarantee in place with the community college. If you opt for the university route, you can be confident that you will complete your bachelor in the scheduled 4-years.
Seed Educational Consulting can present you with excellent options either way. We provide comprehensive information to help you make an informed decision between a community college and a university. Our advice will be based on your academic performance to date, your intended major, your budget and your other needs.
Master’s degrees in the USA
Master’s degrees in the USA usually take 2 years. Tuition fees are often lower at Master’s level than for Bachelor degrees. On the other hand, there are also far fewer scholarships awarded at Master’s level.
If you are an outstanding candidate, rather than a scholarship, you may be able to apply for a Research Assistantship. You would then be employed part-time by the university during your studies. You would earn a salary and in many cases benefit from reduced tuition fees!
To qualify for a Master’s degree in the USA you need to have completed 4 years of university studies. With very few exceptions, a 3-year French-style licence does not qualify you for a Master’s. Instead we would instead treat you as a transfer applicant.
Once you have completed your Master’s degree you can apply for OPT in order to gain valuable work experience. If you have done OPT after a Bachelor’s, you can take OPT again after a Master’s.
Online degrees with US Universities
An increasing number of US institutions offer some of their programs entirely online. This enables you to reduce the cost of obtaining a US Diploma by eliminating living and travel costs. It also allows you to pursue your career in your home country while studying.
If your priority is to obtain a US university degree for your local job and promotion prospects and you’re seeking more economical ways to earn a diploma, this is the option for you. Of course, you do miss out on some of the advantages of studying abroad.
Online programs can be full-time or part-time. Full-time is suitable for those who want to obtain their diploma quickly while keeping tuition fees to a minimum. Part-time study allows students to continue their day-job and study in the evenings and at weekends.
Please note that the range of online degrees is still quite limited, though expanding rapidly. Currently there are more online Master’s than Bachelor’s. There is more focus on business-related areas of study – online MBAs are particularly common. Seed does have several partner schools offering online degrees so we will be happy to assist you.
Popular Areas of Study and Courses in the USA
There is a vast array of fields of study to choose from in the USA. Within each field there are a large number of concentrations (or majors as they are often referred to) . You will find all of the majors you can imagine and many more besides! Most colleges and universities will offer between 50 and 200 majors.
The single most popular area of studies among both American and international students is business. That includes marketing, human resource management, finance and much more. Other popular areas of study include Computer Science, Engineering, Media & Communications. Medical-related programs and Media & Communications are also very popular.
The US has a very particular pathway for students medicine and law students. Neither subject is offered at Bachelor degree level. Instead, students opt for Pre-Medicine, a combination usually of biology and chemistry, or Pre-Law. After completing a bachelor’s there are MCAT exams for Med school or LSAT exams for Law school.
There are very limited places for international students at Med School. The traditional Law School route is really only recommended to students hoping to practise law in the USA in the future. As a result, Seed does not recommend the USA for undergraduate law studies. We would also want to carefully vet your academic record if you dream of eventually joining a US Med School.
Colleges & Universities
College and University in the USA
Firstly, let’s clarify some terminology. You will see and hear the terms ‘college’ and ‘university’ being switched. You will also learn about ‘community colleges’, when researching studies in the USA.
When you hear an American say ‘I go to college at….’ they are generally referring to undergraduate (Bachelor degree) studies. In this case, the institution they are attending may be a ‘University’, it may be a ‘College’.
There are 4-year institutions that use the word ‘College’ rather than ‘University’. Or they may be studying at a 2-year institution, a community college – also sometimes known as a junior college. Simple?
An institution does not have to officially be named a university to offer a full 4-year Bachelor. Universities are not more prestigious than colleges. If you go to the US News and World Report’s 2021 National University Rankings, the institution ranked at #13 is Dartmouth College.
Recommended US Colleges for African Students
With nearly 5000 universities and colleges to choose from, selecting one is a confusing process. Seed Educational Consulting does not represent every university and college in the USA. We believe in offering a list of hand-picked institutions that best meet the needs of African students.
We understand that different students have different needs. So, without any further ado, here is the Seed Educational Consulting manifesto – our commitment to you:
For many African students, the cost of study is all-important. Although the USA can be an extremely expensive country to study in, there is great value too. A core part of the Seed Educational Consulting ethos is to seek out that value and present it to interested students.
We have handpicked a range of community colleges and universities that have low tuition fees. There are attractive and accessible scholarships for African students. Northeastern University is one of the United States’ premier institutions, and it is surprisingly affordable.
We believe in small classes – the US Higher Education system has been built on the premise of debate. Exchanging points of view and perspectives with fellow students and professors and learning from that. Clearly, meaningful debate is much easier in a small class setting.
Small classes are particularly beneficial at Bachelor degree level. Integrating into life in another country and adapting to a different style of education can be stressful enough. Lectures in a large amphitheatre packed full of students are not ideal.
For students who are not native English language speakers, it makes sense to seek institutions offering small classes. There will be much greater opportunity to ask for help from the professor when something is unclear.
We understand that some students wish to obtain a diploma from a ‘prestigious’ university or business school. Usually this only means one that features highly in the national or global rankings.
Seed offers Northeastern University, a top 50 US institution. We also present Rowan University, ranked #17 in the USA for its undergraduate engineering programs. Rowan is also a Tier 1 Nationally ranked university, one of the top 200 universities in the USA.
We also work with community colleges that act as a pathway into top institutions. Simon Gooch, Director of Seed Educational Consulting, has seen examples of students progress from Santa Rosa Junior College into UC Berkeley.
From years of experience we understand the complexities of transferring from the Francophone system to the US system. We represent institutions that facilitate credit transfer from a student’s home country to the USA. Ohio Dominican University and Lewis University do that.
A 3-year licence generally does not meet admission requirements into a US Master’s program: minimum Bac+4 level is required. At McNeese State University and The University of Tampa, Seed students can potentially access an MBA directly after completing a 3-year licence.
Seed understands many students have friends and family in the USA. It can be a great reassurance to parents for students to be close to them. We offer
North East – New York State and New Jersey
South – Florida and Louisiana
Midwest – Chicago, Illinois
West – California and Washington State
Seed only offers partner institutions that we have personally visited or have close working relationships with key international admissions staff.
Which institution(s) we recommend to you will depend on a number of factors. Your budget, academic grades, intended major and level of study are the main ones. Below though is a list of our partner institutions broken down into 3 different groupings. They are ordered by your current level of study, so some institutions therefore feature more than once.
Institutions for Freshmen – those looking for study options immediately after high school:
Institutions for Transfer students – those who want to complete their Bachelor degree in the USA:
Institutions for Graduate studies – those looking to apply for a Master’s or MBA:
Cost of Study
Study in USA Costs
While community colleges are all public institutions, 4-year universities in the USA may be public or private. Regardless of whether an institution is public or private, all students (American and international) pay tuition fees. American students do pay tuition at a lower rate than international students at public institutions. At private institutions the tuition fees usually apply to all students regardless of origin.
In general, private universities apply higher tuition fees than public institutions. However, private institutions also tend to have greater scholarship opportunities. Students with high grades may pay lower tuition fees at a private university than they would at a public one.
How much will it cost to study in the USA?
Well, of course, it is going to cost more to study at a US institution than in your home country. It is also fair to say that, at the top end, US universities have the highest tuition fees in the world. There is a huge difference between institutions with the lowest tuition fees and those with the highest.
At the top end, there are top-ranked private universities with tuition fees of $80,000 per year and more. In contrast you will also find institutions where tuition fees range between $6,000 and $10,000 per year. This is especially true for community colleges, although some 4-year universities also have very affordable tuition.
While we cannot achieve miracles, we will work with you and leverage our comprehensive knowledge of admission practices to help make your studies in the USA more affordable:
- Community colleges are one possible way of reducing the cost of study for at least the first 2 years. If you achieve strong grades you can be confident that you will be eligible for a transfer scholarship at many institutions
- Opt to study in a college town rather than a large city – your living costs are likely to be smaller
- Apply to a smaller institution with fewer international students. This should give you a greater chance of finding a part-time job on campus.
- Any combination of the above!
Living Expenses while at University in the USA
Living expenses in the USA vary widely depending on a number of factors:
- Location – cost of living is highest in the coastal states and drops as you move inland and often southwards. Life in small college towns will also typically cost less than in large metropolitan areas.
- Student Accommodation – living on campus just a few minutes’ walk from your classes is convenient. Especially for those who struggle to get up in the morning. However campus housing will typically cost more than living in rented apartments/houses off-campus. Especially if a mandatory meal plan policy is in place.
- Your personal lifestyle – it’s a fact of life that some people spend more than others. How much you spend shopping or on your social life impacts your living expenses. No two students at the same institution will spend exactly the same amount.
To give you an indication of likely annual expenses, each institution in the USA has calculated an estimate for international students. This estimate is included in the financial calculations on the I-20 . It does not mean that you will spend this amount; however, you must show sufficient funding to cover this estimate of expenses. That is a deciding factor whether you will receive an F-1 student visa, or not, to study in the USA.
Often these estimates are based on campus housing and, as mentioned above, this is rarely the cheapest housing option. In our experience, many students will spend less than the estimate calculated by the institution. It remains a good guide of costs and allows you to compare overall expenses between different institutions more easily.
Study in USA scholarships for African international students
There are thousands and thousands of scholarships available to African students to study in the USA each year. International scholarships, developing countries scholarships and graduate scholarships are only a few examples.
This is a general overview of scholarships in the USA. Each college and university has its own criteria for determining how scholarship grants are awarded. For specific scholarship criteria at each of our Seed partner institutions, go to the individual institution profile.
Some universities set clear criteria, usually a minimum GPA, for financial aid. Any student meeting those criteria is guaranteed a scholarship. No application is required in that case. Other universities have a total fixed scholarship amount and allocate those funds according to the quality of the applications.
In most cases scholarship programs are open to international students from any country in the world. You may find that you compete for scholarships against very strong candidates from China and India.
Most institutions in the USA have a policy of diversity and wish to broaden their nationality mix. It improves debate in the classroom to have more perspectives. To help that, some institutions may have specific regional scholarships in place. Sometimes there are specific scholarships for students from developing countries.
Seed partner Santa Rosa Junior College is an excellent example of this. They have recently introduced their Sawubona Black Student Scholarships, open to black students from the USA and overseas.
Key points to keep in mind:
- Most scholarships are partial scholarships. They cover a certain percentage of the tuition fees. You are still responsible for paying the rest.
- Full tuition scholarships are very rare. They are typically limited to prestigious institutions such as Harvard and Stanford- hugely competitive. There is no such thing as a free scholarship.
- Tuition fees vary widely between US institutions. You may pay less overall at an institution offering no scholarship than at an institution where you qualify for a scholarship. It may seem unusual but this is reality.
- Seed will help advise you on scholarship opportunities. We may sometimes direct you to non-scholarship options elsewhere as they may offer better value for you.
In addition to scholarships you may also be eligible for some academic credit. This is awarded depending on the exams that you pass at high school. It reduces the length and therefore the cost of your studies.
Students with British A-levels and IB students may be eligible for academic credit based on exam results. In some cases, students can earn as much as 30 credits – the equivalent of one full year of studies! Earned academic credit can therefore reduce the length of time needed to complete a Bachelor degree to 3 years.
Seed partners offering attractive credit for IB students include Rowan University and Louisiana Tech University. Rowan University also has dedicated IB scholarships making it a particularly attractive option for IB graduates.
Student visas for African international students in the USA
You will need to apply for an F-1 student visa from the US Embassy in your home country. The step-by-step process below is how to make a visa appointment:
- Apply to an SEVP-approved institution, be admitted and receive a document that is called an I-20. This is effectively a letter of admission from your chosen institution. This is where the knowledge and experience of the Seed team will be particularly important. We will help you identify a suitable institution that meets your requirements and then guide you through the application process.
- Once you have the I-20 you will have all of the information you need to complete your I-901 form. And pay the SEVIS fee, currently $350, at www.fmjfee.com.
- Once this has been done you will need to submit a DS-160 visa application form via https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/. Then pay the visa interview fee. Payment methods vary so make sure to check with the US Embassy in your home country.
- Book a visa appointment via the website of your local US Embassy.
- Attend the visa appointment and (hopefully) obtain the visa so that you are ready to start your studies! You will generally know on the day of the visa interview whether you will be granted a visa or not. So there is not a long and anxious wait for news.
The process may seem laborious and complicated but Seed staff are on hand to help you through each step if needed. At each step of the university application process, we will prepare you so that you will feel confident for your visa interview. You will decide on the institution you wish to apply for. So, you will already be prepared for typical Visa interview questions like ‘Why did you choose this institution?’
Once you have your visa, It is important to note that your F-1 student visa is required for entering the USA. Once you are in the country, ensuring that your I-20 remains in status is critical. It is possible for your student visa to expire but, as long as you are continuing your studies and your I-20 status is in good order, you are still legally in the USA.
If you leave the USA for whatever reason, you need to renew your visa when you return to complete your studies.
Study Abroad Requirements
What are the requirements to study in USA?
When to apply to University in the USA
Most institutions in the USA operate on a semester system with program start dates in August (Fall) and January (Spring). Application deadlines vary by institution but are typically 2-3 months before your intended start date. However, be aware that the more prestigious the institution, the more likely that the application deadline will be much earlier. Some majors may only have a single start date per year (Fall).
You can also start the application process in advance. If you are in the final year of high school, Seed can help you apply to an institution before graduation. In this case, you will have a conditional admission and we will forward your final results later for unconditional admission.
Working with Seed while still attending high school will help you organize your application process early and reduce the stress of meeting important application requirements and deadlines. The same goes for students who are currently nearing the end of their first degree and who are looking for onward study options.
Planning early will also give your financial sponsor time to organize their finances so that they can more easily provide the proof of financial means that will be needed during the application process.
How to Apply
How to apply to study in the USA
5 steps for African students to University in the USA
- Send us your academic documents and explain to us your future career plans. We will have lots of questions for you, especially financial questions relating to your sponsor and his/her budget, so try to prepare as much documentation as possible.
- We will review your dossier and then propose colleges or universities to you based on your past academic grades, intended major of study, budget and any personal preferences, such as geographical preferences. In doing so, we will send you links of programs that we feel will be of interest to you.
- We invite you to carefully review the university links that we send you and to make a choice – it is YOU that will choose the university. Seed Educational Consulting makes recommendations and no more.
- Seed Educational Consulting will work with you to submit an application to the university or college of your choice.
- Upon receiving a letter of admission from the chosen institution, we will then work with you on the student visa process. For a destination such as the USA, where a personal interview is required, we will help prepare you for that interview.
Once you have your visa we will guide you on the next steps; including reserving accommodation, flights, insurance, SIM cards and everything else.
I have started university in my country – can I transfer to the USA?
Yes, you can! It is possible for students to switch to the USA at any point. Transferring credits from your studies at a university in your home country to a US institution is generally possible.
The process can often take some time. You will not be able to transfer 100% of your credits as the educational systems are different.
African students who have completed 2 years of university in their country are unlikely to be able to start the 3rd year in the USA. In most cases, you are likely to transfer to the beginning of the second year. In the best-case scenario, transfer students begin their US studies in the second semester of the second year.
Many universities in the USA require you to organise an official evaluation of your university transcripts from your home country. You do this via an organization such as WES (www.wes.org). You may be required to send originals of your academic transcripts to WES in the USA. Although you will get these documents back, we understand if you are reluctant to send original documents to the USA.
It is also important to understand that these evaluations will be at your expense. Currently the basic evaluation service offered by WES costs $160. There are additional fees if you need the reports to be sent to multiple institutions or for an express evaluation service.
Fortunately, Seed Educational Consulting can recommend some excellent options if you are looking to transfer. Certain Seed partners, such as Lewis University and Ohio Dominican University, will carry out the transfer evaluation in-house. So you can avoid the expense and time of a WES evaluation. Our partnership with Northeastern University includes some excellent Bachelor Completion options specifically aimed at students who are looking to transfer.
Post-graduate opportunities for Africans in the USA
It is not true that international students have to book the first flight home after graduating. Graduating students are entitled to apply for OPT (Optional Practical Training) in an employment area related to their field of study.
OPT must commence within two months of graduation. It permits international students to work for up to 12 months after graduation. OPT is extended to 36 months for STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – graduates.
OPT is not guaranteed and you must find employment within 2 months of graduation. You should start the process during your final year of study. First with research and then applying for jobs. Early preparation is key to finding a seamless placement within the two-month window after graduation.
Your institution should offer a number of support services to international students looking to find a suitable work placement. These include CV-writing workshops, interview role-play workshops and perhaps a careers fair. At careers fairs, you will meet with many employers who present information about their companies and current work opportunities.
Students who opted for an internship or co-op during their degree will already have contacts. This will likely make it easier to arrange an OPT placement. Many students do manage to arrange their OPT within the same company where they took their internship or co-op.
OPT is not permitted if a student has completed more than 12 months of work experience during their degree. It is possible to benefit from OPT after graduating from a Bachelor’s degree, and again after a Master’s. So you have the chance potentially to complete 2 different periods of OPT.
OPT allows you to gain valuable professional work experience and also a salary. Some students, especially those in STEM fields, use OPT to build up savings for a Master’s degree.