Study in the US University FAQ: Answers to your most important questions before applying

A Complete Guide to Studying in the US for Chinese Students

Studying abroad in the US is an exciting opportunity for Chinese students to receive a world-class education. With over 4,000 colleges and universities to choose from, the US offers unparalleled options for higher education. However, navigating the admissions process as an international student can be daunting. This complete guide breaks down everything you need to know as a Chinese student looking to study in the US, from application timelines to visa requirements, costs, university rankings, and more.

Why Study in the US?

There are many reasons why the US is a top study abroad destination for Chinese students:

World-renowned universities

The US dominates global university rankings, with 8 of the top 10 universities in the world. Elite institutions like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and more provide top-notch academics.

Flexible curricula

Unlike Chinese universities, which have set programs of study, US universities allow students to take courses across disciplines and design their own curricula.

Abundant resources

US universities are extremely well-funded, meaning they offer stellar facilities, abundant research opportunities, support services, and more.

Campus culture

The extracurricular culture at US colleges is very vibrant. You can join diverse clubs and sports teams to meet new friends.

Career prospects

A degree from an American university carries prestige and opens up employment doors at global companies.

Exposure to diversity

With students from all backgrounds, you’ll gain invaluable exposure to cultural diversity.

Timeline for Applying to US Universities

Navigating the admissions timeline and requirements can be challenging for Chinese students new to the US system. Here’s an overview of key deadlines:

  • 12-18 months before: Research universities and programs. Prepare for required tests like TOEFL, SAT, ACT, and GRE.
  • 12 months before: Take required admissions tests. Contact desired universities about requirements.
  • 11-9 months before: Ask teachers and counselors for recommendation letters. Write admissions essays. Submit applications.
  • 8-12 weeks before: Complete financial aid applications. Submit supporting documents.
  • By May 1: Accept an offer from your chosen university. Apply for a student visa.
  • July – Sep: Arrange for housing, insurance, and travel to the US.

Aim to submit applications 8-12 months in advance. Popular universities have early deadlines in November. Give yourself plenty of time!

Choosing US Universities

With over 4,000 colleges and universities across 50 states, selecting where to apply can be overwhelming. Here are some tips:

Align with interests

Research each university’s academics, specialties, and extracurriculars to find the best fit for you.

Target range

Apply to 3-6 universities: 1-2 “reach” schools, 3-4 “target” schools, and 1-2 “safety” schools.


Consult university rankings like US News, but also look beyond the numbers at student experiences.


Consider the pros and cons of different locations: urban vs rural, distance from home, weather, cultural/regional differences, etc.


Carefully consider the costs of different universities (see Finances section below). In-state public schools tend to be cheaper.

Admissions rates

More competitive universities have lower acceptance rates, around 5-20% for top schools. Have realistic expectations.

Popular Destinations for Chinese Students

Certain US cities and states host thriving international student communities. Popular destinations for Chinese students include:


Home to top-ranked schools like Stanford, Caltech, UC schools (UCLA, UC Berkeley, etc); warm climate and cultural diversity.

New York City

Columbia University, NYU; iconic global city with endless opportunities.


Harvard, MIT, Boston University; renowned for academia, technology, biotech.


UPenn, Drexel; high-quality universities in a historic East Coast city.


Northwestern, UChicago, UIUC; prestigious Midwestern schools.


UT Austin, Texas A&M, Rice University; larger public schools with school spirit.

Consider both your academic interests and lifestyle preferences when weighing locations. Visiting campuses can also help inform your decision.

Tests for US University Admissions

Standardized tests are crucial parts of US university applications. Required exams include:


Essential English proficiency exams for non-native speakers. Minimum 100 TOEFL iBT score for most universities.


Standardized tests to assess college readiness. SAT has 2 sections (Evidence-based Reading & Writing, Math). ACT covers 4 sections (English, Math, Reading, Science).


Graduate school admission tests. GRE is required for most master’s/PhD programs; GMAT for business/management degrees.

Register early and give yourself plenty of time to prepare for exams. You can take them multiple times – schools will consider your highest scores.

Finances: Costs and Scholarships

With high tuition fees, finances are a major factor for international students. Be aware of these costs when budgeting:


Ranges from $10,000 – $70,000 per year at public and private universities, not including room, board, books, etc.


$5,000 – $15,000, depending on whether you choose university dorms or off-campus housing.

Other costs

Books ($600-$1,500), health insurance ($800-$2,000), transportation, personal expenses.

Total per year

You’ll need $25,000 – $80,000 per year, so plan your finances carefully!

The good news? Many US universities offer generous merit-based and financial aid scholarships specifically for international students that can cover 50-100% of costs. Thoroughly research these options!

US Student Visa Application

Once accepted to a university, obtaining your F-1 student visa is the next crucial step. Here’s what the process entails:

  • Complete the I-20 form from your university to get your SEVIS ID number.
  • Pay the $160 SEVIS fee and schedule your visa interview at your nearest US embassy.
  • Gather supporting documents: proof of university acceptance, financial support, standardized test scores, etc.
  • Attend the visa interview. Be ready to explain your study plans and ties to China that ensure your return home after graduating.
  • If approved, you’ll receive an F-1 visa stamped in your passport. Notify your university to get your I-20 form signed.
  • The F-1 visa allows you to study full-time in the US. Make sure to maintain your student status by following visa rules once enrolled.

Arriving as an International Student

Once you get your visa, here are a few things to take care of before flying to the US:


Book university dorms or off-campus housing in advance.


Purchase health insurance that meets university requirements.


Make sure to pack essential documents, dorm supplies, and appropriate clothing for the climate.


Book flights and arrange airport pickup if needed. Don’t forget to pack prescription medications.


Attend international student orientation to learn about adjusting to academic life, US classroom culture, visas, and more.


Sign up for classes, complete paperwork, get your student ID card, set up IT accounts, etc.

The first weeks may be overwhelming, but you’ll soon adapt to your new routine! Reach out to your university’s international student services office if you need help.

Adjusting to Academic Life in the US

The American classroom style is quite different from universities in China. Some tips for adjusting:

  • Classes are often highly interactive. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, join discussions, challenge ideas.
  • Develop critical thinking skills. You’ll need to analyze, interpret, and evaluate information frequently.
  • Participate in study groups. These let you collaborate with classmates and get different learning perspectives.
  • Become acquainted with academic integrity standards. There are strict policies on plagiarism and academic dishonesty.
  • Make use of campus resources like writing centres, tutoring services, and academic advisors. Don’t be shy to ask for guidance!

Immerse yourself in campus life and American culture for a rich educational experience. Your skills will become increasingly globalized through studying in the US!

Staying Connected with Home

While studying abroad is exciting, you may experience homesickness from being far from family and friends. Here are some tips for staying connected:

  • Communicate regularly through WeChat, email, and video calls to share your experiences. With the time difference, the schedule calls for when it’s morning/evening in China.
  • Share photos so your loved ones can see your housing, classes, campus life, and new friends.
  • Bring some reminders of home like photos, books, favourite snacks/childhood foods, etc. These touches of home help ease homesickness.
  • Make new connections with fellow Chinese international students through cultural student groups. Celebrate Chinese holidays together.
  • Visit home during longer breaks like the summer, so you don’t feel so far away.

Studying in the US as an international student is an incredible opportunity. Follow this guide, and you’ll be setting yourself up for an enriching, unforgettable academic journey! In addition, The application process for US universities can be complex for international students. Working with an experienced 美国留学中介 can simplify the journey. They provide one-stop guidance on researching schools, submitting polished applications, conducting interviews, obtaining visas, preparing for academic life abroad, and more. This comprehensive support system allows Chinese students to focus on their studies once they arrive on campus in the US.

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