All our practical advice for going to study at an American university or college, whether it is for post-baccalaureate studies or a university exchange.
There are 4,000 universities, including some very prestigious ones (Harvard, Stanford, etc.). If the desire to go there has also crossed your mind, here are the steps to take before trying the experience.
Can you leave after high school graduation? If you’re already a student, how do university exchanges work? When should you start and how should you prepare your application? How much does it cost and can you get scholarships? What are the steps to take, visas and insurance to obtain? Is it easy to find accommodation, a student job, or an internship? Here is the advice of Graic Ouziel, counselor to the European-American Fulbright Commission.
Leaving for post-baccalaureate studies
For a young person who wants to do his post-baccalaureate studies in the United States, there are two solutions: the best known (and expensive) is to apply to a university, the second is to enroll in a community college, a two-year course after the baccalaureate, which is much more accessible.
Applying for a Bachelor’s degree at an American university. This course lasts four years, with one particularity: there is no obligation to choose a major subject during its first two years. “At 17, Americans generally try a lot of things in their first two years of school,” says Ouziel. It’s called general education, and it’s a very important part of the education system. Specialization only takes place in the third year.
Before you apply, you should know that the American federal system allows each state to decide its own policy, with public universities that it finances, and others private, with much higher tuition fees. In both cases, an application is required (as for American high school students) one or even two years in advance.
Prepare for an associate’s degree at a community college. This is a two-year program, which has two advantages for a young student: “To bring yourself up to speed in the different subjects if you have gaps and to deepen your English with specific courses,” explains the counselor. Since the fees are relatively lower, a student is not eligible for American scholarships.
Universities provide a strong influence in the cities where they are located. This is the case in Boston, which is home to some 100 university institutes, including Harvard and MIT or Pittsburgh, the former steel capital (subscribers). In order to boost their capacity without leaving the city centres, major business schools, particularly in New York, are launching bold projects.
Apply for a university exchange
A student who began his studies outside the USA can also leave, provided that his university has signed agreements with American faculties. To do so, they just need to check with the international relations department of their institution.
It is possible to leave as soon as you have a Bachelor’s degree (after a bac + 2), by preparing your file one year in advance. Send in your transcripts (translated into English), take the Toefl (a test to find out your level of English) and write a cover letter (in English). In some cases, letters of recommendation are also required. This is a selective process, as the number of places is limited, but it is much cheaper in terms of tuition fees.
Registering for a master’s degree without an academic exchange
After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in his or her country, a student can go to the United States to do a master’s degree without going on an academic exchange. However, there is one difference: a master’s degree in an American university is entered in the fifth year. Some admissions offices consider the bachelor’s degree to be the equivalent of the American bachelor’s degree and the student will then be eligible to enter the master’s program. But other universities, especially the more selective ones, will first want the student to have at least a Master’s 1 or even a Master’s 2 before they can enter their Master’s programs,” explains Graic Ouziel,. An admission file will have to be drawn up, just like for a bachelor’s degree.
Tuition and budget
Studying in the United States is, in any case, an expensive investment, between airfare and living there, often with significant tuition fees.
For those who leave on an individual basis, outside of an inter-university agreement, it is necessary to pay the tuition and fees of the American university. If the university is private, the tuition fee is about $50,000 (47,000 euros) per year. If it is public, the cost ranges from $15,000 (14,200 euros) to more than $35,000 (33,200 euros). In a community college, it is about $7,000 (‘6,600). “Every year, these costs increase by about 3 per cent,” says Ouziel.
The total budget for one year of study at a university ranges from $30,000 to $70,000 (‘28,400 to ‘66,300), all inclusive. The student will be eligible for a U.S. scholarship. it is important to know that prices differ from city to city. For example, in New York or Los Angeles, the cost of living will be more expensive than in a smaller city,” she says. For a year of community college, the cost ranges from $20,000 to $25,000 (‘18,900 to ‘23,600), all-inclusive – tuition, housing, travel, transportation and so on.
On an academic exchange, the student pays the registration fees of his or her college not at the host university, which significantly reduces the cost.
Financial conditions and guarantor.’’ the student must prove that he or she has the estimated budget in his or her bank account,” Ouziel said. They must also have a guarantor (relative, friend, etc.) who can help them if they need it. The same principle applies to post-baccalaureate training, except that the student must have enough money in a bank account to cover not only tuition fees but also living expenses (housing, food, living expenses, etc.).
Procedures: visa and health insurance
Once admitted by the American university, the student can apply for a visa. A file must be filled out and then an interview in English at the US Embassy in Paris to explain the project.
Health insurance is also required. Universities offer their own, which cost more. It’s important to find out,” Ouziel said, “because sometimes you don’t have to have it, and they don’t always specify it up front. If you have a choice, it’s best to look into international health insurance (Mondassur, AVI, Cap Student, etc.), or your student mutual insurance company, which may offer a special plan.
Scholarships to help finance your studies
The scholarships depend on whether you are going on an individual or an academic exchange.
Students leaving after the baccalaureate can obtain a scholarship from the host university. The amount varies from one university to another, and can be found on the EducationUSA website. They may also be eligible for a merit-based scholarship (based on their grades). Few community colleges offer scholarships for international students (contact the institution to check).
For exchange students, there are several types of support. First of all, funding from the departmental council, the regional council and the Crous (the student’s scholarships are kept during the exchange). On the other hand, they are rarely entitled to an American scholarship.
Students who go on a master’s (or doctoral) degree without going on an exchange do not have a federal government scholarship, but may be eligible for a merit scholarship from the host university (depending on grades). Then, the Fulbright Commission awards about ten scholarships each year (applications are mainly evaluated on the quality of the study project, academic results and the motivation of the candidate).
Finding a home
Housing in the United States is generally easy. There are several possibilities: renting a college room on campus (alone or with others) or taking a roommate not far from campus. At major universities, there is a program that allows students to stay for two weeks at the beginning of the semester in a hall of residence (or host family) while they look for accommodation. Do not hesitate to contact the international student office of the American university for information.
The campus is a small community, everyone knows each other, it’s a good way to integrate. Beyond that, a university room is of course possible, but I would recommend a roommate outside, it’s more fun,” explains Graic Ouziel,.
A student’s visa allows him or her to work on campus only – and not off campus – for a maximum of 20 hours a week. How easy is it to find a student job? Depends on campus size. If it’s big, there are a lot of opportunities, whether it’s in the cafeteria, the library, the gym, the bookstore, the restaurant… But if the campus is smaller, there are obviously fewer opportunities,” Ouziel says.
Finding a student job is therefore not automatic, but “there is always a solution, such as going to the tutoring office and offering to be a tutor to give private lessons,” she explains.
Going for an internship in a company
For an internship in the United States, you can apply for an offer posted by an American company. For example, International students can submit a list of internships offered by the Student Conservation Association. It is also possible to send an unsolicited application to a particular company. Some companies may also offer internships abroad (ask those that interest you). The J-1 visa is required to do an internship in the United States.