Higher Education Resources

This is a list of online resources for international students who are interested in pursuing undergraduate studies at colleges and universities in the United States.

Getting Started: the Admissions Process

Undergraduate degree-granting institutions in the United States can be called universities, colleges, or institutes; none are inferior to the other. In American English, “college” is a generic term for any post-secondary undergraduate education, and the terms “school,” “college” and “university” are used interchangeably.

The college admissions process in the U.S. is subjective and multi-step. When one applies to a college, one is usually admitted to the entire college, not a specific department or major, although some schools may limit admissions in a particular department or major due to demand or funding issues. Here are some websites that provide a good overview of the U.S. higher education system and the college admissions process:

EducationUSA - Sponsored by the U.S. State Department to promote higher education options in the United States, this website provides a comprehensive overview to studying in the U.S.

eduPASS - Besides covering all the basics of the U.S. college admissions process, eduPASS also offers resources on English as a second language, cultural differences, and living in the U.S.A.

^ back to top

Knowing Yourself: Personal Exploration

Why do you want to attend university in the U.S.? What do you hope to gain from the experience? When you understand who you are and what you need and want, you cam make the most out of your undergraduate years.

HumanMetrics Personality Test - based on the Carl Jung and Isabel Myers-Briggs typology, this free test allows you to understand your personality type and offers suggestions to careers that may be suitable to you. Self-understanding is helpful in selecting a school that will meet your needs.

College Personality Quiz - Based on Steven Antonoff's book,College Match, this free quiz will help you figure out the kinds of schools that will best meet your needs.

World of Work Map by the ACT - Select different careers based on the kind of work you like to do to find occupational suggestions with job descriptions, average salaries, career size and growth rates, and entry requirements.

^ back to top

School Search & Reviews

Now that you better understand yourself, how can you find schools among the more than 4,000 accredited higher education institutions in the United States that meets your needs? Don't be limited by the U.S. News and World Report's College Rankings, as it may not reflect what is best for you! The College Board offers tips for finding your college match while College Data has detailed information on making your college match. Here are a few sites where current students tell you what college life is really like:

College Confidential - Besides the 'CampusVibe' section that has college visit reports, photos, and videos, the website boasts active forums and many helpful articles on admissions and college life. Check out the 'Ask The Dean' section!

Unigo - this website offers detailed reviews of colleges and universities kept current by designated on-campus representatives as well as student submissions. A unique feature of this website is the 'WSJ On Campus' section that is a re-broadcast of the Wall Street Journal's webcast with the heads of admissions from Bryn Mawr, Grinnell, Marquette, Princeton, Penn, UVM, Wesleyan and Williams.

CollegeProwler - unique features of this college review site include the 'Do I Stand A Chance?' acceptance estimator and the 'Personality Match' tool to see if the school is a good fit. The site is designed so that it is easy to compare schools across several features.

^ back to top

College Applications

Common Application - A common application form that is accepted by 391 schools.

Universal College Application - Accepted by 85 schools, this application allows you to also fill out one application to apply to many schools at once.

University of California (UC) Undergraduate Admissions - the portal to apply to the University of California.

^ back to top

Essay Writing

The College Board offers an 'Essay Skills' section that gives great advice to get you started, including things to consider before writing your essay.

Parke Muth, an admissions dean at the University of Virginia, has advice on writing the essay.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal asked college presidents to write their own college essays. Find the essays, including an article that explains why they wrote what they wrote, along with a video of advice, at Unigo.
For general advice on the English language, including on grammar and mechanics, you can't go wrong with the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

The Grammar Girl offers a fun way to get quick and dirty tips for better writing.

^ back to top

Interview Preparation

The College Board also offers basic advice on the college interview, while the Emma Willard School offers comprehsive advice including a list of sample interview questions.

^ back to top


Most selective institutions require either the SAT or the ACT standardized admissions tests. These exams test a student’s (English) reading and writing, and math skills.

Many institutions also require the SAT Subject Test, which tests knowledge in a specific subject area.

Many schools also request non-native English speakers to take a test that measures one’s English proficiency, such as theTOEFL.

Both the College Board, the administrator of the SAT, and the ACT organization offer free test preparation tips and sample tests:

Number2.com - offers free online test preparation.

Free Rice - This is not a website that is directly targeted at test preparation per se, but a good vocabulary is essential to doing well on tests and this website that makes learning vocabulary fun - and by playing this game, also does good for others.

^ back to top

Financial Aid

Financial aid is extremely limited for undergraduate international students. Here are two comprehensive website that offer information on calculating college costs, sources of financial aid, and funding sources:

EduPASS - the 'Financial Aid for International Students' section is very thorough.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators - has a 'Financial Aid for Undergraduate International Students' resource provides information primarily for students with nonimmigrant visas.

If the educational institution you are applying to offers aid to international students, you may be asked to fill out the College Board International Student Financial Aid Application, which will be provided by the institution if required.

If you are a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident, then you are eligible to apply for federal student aid. You should apply for financial aid, even if you don't think you qualify, as there are many factors that affect eligibility and you may find out that you are, in fact, eligible for aid! To apply for aid, you will have to fill out these two forms:
  • FAFSA - this is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. 
  • CSS/Financial Aid Profile - the financial aid application service of the College Board. Many universities use the information collected on PROFILE to help them award nonfederal student aid funds. 
^ back to top

U.S. Immigration & Student Visas

EducationUSA - straight from the source, find a student visas FAQ.

SEVIS - Maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, this website describes the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which is an Internet-based system that tracks foreign students and exchange visitors before and during their stay in the U.S.

US-VISIT - Learn about the biometric identifyers and student tracking process used by the Department of Homeland Security.

^ back to top