Step #1: Research Your Options
The first step to studying in the United States is researching your options to find a college or university that best fits your needs. You shouldn’t try to match yourself to the school, but rather find the school that matches you and your priorities and long-term goals.
Remember that no official ranking system exists for colleges and universities in the United States. The best college or university is the one that is best for you and meets your requirements—academic, financial, and personal. At least 12 to 18 months prior to the academic year in which you hope to attend a U.S. college or university, you should begin your research. Start by answering these basic questions and looking at the more specific ‘define your priorities’ pages under each level of study in this section:
- Why do you want to study in the United States?
- Where will you fit in best?
- Which colleges or universities will meet your needs?
- Will you need financial assistance?
- What are the application and financial aid deadlines?
- Where do you want to live in the United States?
Choose your level of study (e.g. undergraduate, graduate, etc.) to learn more about researching your options. Keep in mind that the schools you apply to must be certified by the Student Exchange Visitor Program. You can find a searchable list of certified schools on the Department of Homeland Security’s Study in the State’s website.
Good to know
Application and financial aid deadlines affect when you take standardized tests because test results must reach admissions offices no later than their application deadlines. Want to learn more about studying in the United States? Visit: https://educationusa.state.gov/experience-studying-usa/experience-studying-usa
Step #2: Finance Your Studies
The cost of living and studying varies across the United States. With the right amount of planning and research, pursuing a U.S. higher education can be made affordable with high returns on your investment. Start your financial planning as early as possible. Each year international students receive significant amounts of financial assistance for their studies. However, competition is high. Applications for financial aid go together with applications for admission. When looking into studying in the United States, evaluating your finances should be one of the first things you do. As with any investment, you need to evaluate what’s best for your educational and career goals and what you are willing to spend. U.S. institutions offer a wide array of programs with a wide array of tuition and fees. The United States is a large country and the cost of living varies greatly from place to place. You need to assess your funding and what you are able to spend on your education and living expenses.
Choose your level of study (community college, undergraduate, graduate, short-term, English language) to learn more about financing your options.
Good to know
Location matters! Depending on where you live and study, costs for housing and food vary greatly in the United States. Suburban or rural areas in the South and Midwest of the United States generally have the lowest cost of living. Need financial aid? Visit: https://educationusa.state.gov/find-financial-aid
Step #3: Complete Your Application
This step covers the general application requirements for U.S. colleges and universities. Applying for U.S. study is a task that takes time and concentration as each application is different and involves collecting recommendations, writing essays, and routing the results of required standard examinations. Plan to give this step the time it deserves for a successful result. Choose your level of study to learn more about completing your application.
Good to know
An original high school or postsecondary transcript will be required for each institution you apply for so start collecting these materials well in advance of application deadlines.
More questions? Visit: https://educationusa.state.gov/experience-studying-usa/experience-studying-usa
Step #4: Applying for Your U.S. Student Visa
This next step will cover F, J and M student visa types. Information pertaining to visas and travel can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Study in the States. Choose your level of study to learn more about applying for your student visa.
Good to know
Because visa interviews are short, do your best to explain why you want to study in the United States, how you plan to support yourself while in school, and what your plans are for when your studies are finished. Visa questions? Visit:
Step #5: Prepare for Your Departure
Preparing for your departure is the final step to Your Five Steps to U.S. Study. Key components to this final step include making your travel arrangements, attending a pre-departure orientation organized by EducationUSA Zambia, gathering pre-departure materials and documents for arrival, as well as reporting to your school and attending orientations. Check your new institution’s website for additional pre-departure information that will be more specialized and have information about health insurance, average local temperatures throughout the year, local transportation options, housing, and more. EducationUSA Zambia organizes pre-departure orientations for students getting ready to depart for the United States. EducationUSA advisors and U.S. alumni provide information and resources that will help you prepare for new experiences and develop skills to adjust to new challenges. Topics discussed include cultural differences, motivation, changes from your home environment, academic systems and expectations, housing, and coping in a new cultural setting. Contact EducationUSA Zambia at EduLusaka@state.gov to attend a pre-departure orientation.
Good to know
Pre-departure orientations are offered by EducationUSA Zambia to students making final preparations to depart for their studies in the United States.
What happens when you arrive? Visit: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/getting-to-the-united-states
More questions about the five-step process? Please email EduLusaka@state.gov.