The United States of America is a top destination for foreign nationals for many purposes. People from all over the globe are drawn to the country for its dynamic and multicultural environment. But more than that, the U.S. is known to have the finest universities globally, and subsequently, the largest international student population in the world. In this article, we will be looking at the best universities in the United States for international students.

Is the United States good for international students to study in?

Universities in the United States dominate world university rankings every year. They are known to maintain high academic standards, have a flexible education system, and excellent support for international students.

The U.S. provides the ultimate international exposure as it has been a melting pot of cultures for many years. Diversity contributes to a more stimulating education experience, and international students learn a different set of skills outside the classroom. Regardless of the university, international students will find themselves deeply immersed in the dynamic American lifestyle.

Check Also: Available Programs for International Students

Can international students work in the United States while studying?

International students who come to the United States to study fall under two nonimmigrant visas. The F-1 visa is for full-time academic students, while the M-1 visa is for vocational students. F-1 visa holders can only work on-campus during their first academic years, such as bookstore attendants or learning tutors. After their first year, they may engage in off-campus employment but are limited to three types: Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training (OPT), and STEM OPT. M-1 students can only engage in practical training once they complete their studies. Other off-campus work is subject to a case-to-case basis for approval. For both F-1 and M-1 learners, their practical training must be related to their area of study.

Can international students stay in the United States after graduation?

International graduates can start or continue with OPT or STEM OPT after finishing their studies. The former allows graduates to stay for another year, while the latter up to three years.

Those who wish to remain longer in the U.S. must change the status of their visa. You can change your F-1 or M-1 visa to any of the two categories depending on your purpose: the Temporary (Nonimmigrant) or Permanent Worker Classification. You or your employer may request the appropriate form and process with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCSIS).

Best Universities in the United States for International Students

1. Stanford University

Stanford University, the best university in the USA for international students, was established in 1885 by Leland and Jane Stanford to improve people’s well-being through research and knowledge application. The university is organized into seven schools, three of which lead 40 undergraduate academic departments, while four professional schools focus on law, business, education, and medicine at the graduate level. Stanford has made several breakthroughs throughout the years, including the first successful heart-lung transplant and the development of digital music.

The Stanford campus spans 8180 acres and is one of the largest in the U.S. Besides its seven schools, it houses 18 multidisciplinary research units, the Stanford Research Park, faculty residences, and other facilities. Stanford enrolls students from over 90 countries and is easily the most global university in the U.S.

2. Harvard University

Harvard University is the oldest in the U.S., dating back to 1636. It carries the name of John Harvard, its first benefactor, who left half his land and a whole library to the institution upon his death. This top university in United States stands at a 5000-acre campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with twelve schools, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the world’s most extensive university library system, two theatres, five museums, and student and faculty residences.

Harvard’s high research activity spans the arts, engineering, medicine, and sciences. It is particularly strong in biomedical research, while its medical school ranks among the top in the U.S. Over 24% of Harvard students are international, representing more than 180 countries. The university has hosted the most number of international scholars in the U.S.

3. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

The California Institute of Technology is a research university in Pasadena highly regarded in science and engineering. It started as a vocational school founded by the American businessman Amos Throop and has since grown into an independent university spanning six academic divisions. Caltech maintains a high research output with its many top-quality facilities and research units. It also manages NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the International Observatory Network, and many other specialized centers.

Caltech is a highly competitive admissions process to ensure the most deserving students get admitted into the university. Students in their first year are required to stay in the university’s House System, but 95% of them remain on campus until later years. Besides an impressive academic performance, Caltech also excels in athletics and visual and performing arts.

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was founded in 1861 concerning the rising industrialization of the U.S. It adopted the polytechnic university model from Europe, which stresses laboratory instruction as a primary learning strategy. Indeed, it was the university’s motto in action: Mens et Manus or Mind and Hand. This top university in USA for international students has since been widely known and credited for the development of science, engineering, and technology in the country.

International students in MIT can choose to study from five different schools, including humanities, arts & social sciences, management & science, architecture & planning, and of course, engineering. MIT also emphasizes entrepreneurship, and many MIT graduates are founders or co-founders of notable companies.

5. University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)

The University of California, Berkeley is the first campus of the system and the state’s first land-grant university. It comprises 14 colleges and schools and hosts leading research centers nationwide, including the Space Sciences Laboratory and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. UC Berkeley is credited for vital scientific advances, such as discovering 16 chemical elements and innovations in genomics and computer science.

UC Berkeley is located in San Francisco’s Bay Area and accommodates nearly 32,000 undergraduate students and 12,000 graduate students, where international students comprise over 12% and 18% respectively. Students of UC Berkeley enjoy campus traditions especially sporting events which are the highlights of every academic term.

6. Yale University

Yale University is the United States’ third oldest institution for higher education, established in 1701. Before the American Revolution, it was restricted to only two disciplines: sacred languages and theology. It has expanded in time to accommodate more subject areas and presently comprises fourteen schools. Yale has a very high research activity, and its initiatives focus on global topics around science, languages, science, and arts and humanities.

As one of the best universities in the USA for international students, Yale welcomes students from different ethnic, national, and socioeconomic backgrounds to its conducive learning campus in New Haven. Over 10% of its student body is international, with more than half receiving scholarships and grants. Undergraduates attend Yale College, which covers social sciences, science, and arts and humanities, before moving on to a departmental major.

7. University of Chicago (UChicago)

The University of Chicago is a private research university and home to many esteemed academic programs globally. It pioneered the fields of sociology and ecology, the first MBA executive program, and the first international affairs graduate program in the US. Furthermore, the university played a key role in several scientific and academic discoveries, such as linking genetics and cancer and innovative urban schooling tools.

UChicago manages one undergraduate college, five graduate units, and eight professional schools, all of which follow a culture of free inquiry and open academic discourse. Its main campus is at Hyde Park and has campuses and centers in cities abroad, including Beijing, Delhi, Hong Kong, London, and Paris.

8. Johns Hopkins University (JHU)

Johns Hopkins University is a private university in Baltimore, Maryland, and was considered the first research university in the U.S. after adopting the graduate school concept from Germany. It carries the name of its first benefactor, the American entrepreneur, and philanthropist Johns Hopkins. JHU is organized into ten academic divisions in engineering, sciences, business, arts, medicine, international studies, and more.

International students comprise nearly 20% of the student body of JHU, a top university in the USA for international students. This percentage continues to grow with the university’s attractive opportunities to do vital research. At the undergraduate level, students can already work alongside top researchers in studies funded by prestigious institutions like NASA.

9. University of Pennsylvania (Penn/UPenn)

The University of Pennsylvania is a prestigious research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740. As the founder and first president, he established the university to train American leaders in government, public service, and commerce. Today, Penn is organized into four undergraduate schools, 12 professional schools, the Wharton School, and other support facilities in a 302-acre campus.

UPenn allows students to take classes in any of the 12 schools, helping them achieve an interdisciplinary education. International students in UPenn study in the same university with 25 Nobel laureates, several heads of states, prime ministers and presidents, and notable poets and artists.

10. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

The University of California, Los Angeles is the second-oldest of the 10-campus University of California system. It is the most applied-to of all American universities, with over 168,000 aspirants for Fall 2021. Students who wish to study at this top university in the United States can choose from over 337 undergraduate and graduate degree programs covering almost all areas of knowledge. Furthermore, over two dozen of these programs ranked among the top 20 in their fields.

UCLA graduates find opportunities in leading industries and companies like Google and Silicon Valley companies. It also ranks 11th in the world for the most MBA graduates turned entrepreneurs backed by venture capital.


We hope that this article on the best universities in the United States for international students was helpful. To know more information like this, check out the Available Programs for International Students!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

Share this article via