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The 20 best U.S. universities for international students

Academic excellence, research and career opportunities, the American college culture or athletic scholarships are only some of the many compelling reasons to move to the U.S. for a college degree.

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Academic excellence, research and career opportunities, the American college culture or athletic scholarships are only some of the many compelling reasons to move to the U.S. for a college degree.It’s no surprise that international students from all over the world choose to study here every year. In fact, there were over 1 million international students in the U.S. in 2017/2018, which was 5.5% of the total population of those enrolled in higher education in the U.S.

However, international students often have to overcome barriers such incredibly high tuition fees and cost of living, challenging application programs or visa-related issues. Aside from rank, there are two other factors that often play a major role in helping international students decide where study in the United States: cost (tuition assistance is often harder to secure for international students) and size of the existing international student population, which usually goes hand-in-hand with current resources available to international students.

We’ve put together a list of universities by rank that fall in to at least two of the three of the previously mentioned categories to form our list of best U.S. universities for international students.

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The top 20 Universities in the U.S. for international students:

1. Princeton University

   Princeton, NJ

Princeton is currently ranked as the top school in the U.S. according to the U.S. News and World Report. Its Davis International Center offers programs to help its international students adjust to life in the U.S., the most of which hail from China, Canada, and India.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $47,140

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 13%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 28%

2. Harvard University

  Cambridge, MA

Often topping university ranking lists (its World University rank is #3), Harvard is a dream school for many foreign students. In fact, its international student population has steadily increased over time, with 103 countries represented in its undergraduate population alone. Its proximity to other universities in the greater Boston area is widely appealing to international students looking to make connections beyond the Harvard campus.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $50,420

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 12%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 24%

3. Columbia University

  New York, NY

Located in one of the most diverse cities in the U.S., Columbia’s total student population hails from 151 countries, and over 14,000 of its nearly 33,000 students are from outside of the U.S. In fact, Columbia is the Ivy League university with the most international students.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $59,430

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 17%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 33%

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

  Cambridge, MA

Students flock from all over the world to study at MIT, which is currently ranked as the #1 World University and is well-known for its computer science program. The school maintains a strong global presence, with centers and campuses in Abu Dhabi, Singapore, and China. The majority of MIT's international students are from China, Canada, India, South Korea, and France, among many others.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $51,832

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 10%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 29%

5. Yale University

  New Haven, CT

Yale students come from 118 countries, and its Office of International Students & Scholars assists students with issues surrounding cultural adjustment, visas, and employment. Yale is a popular choice for international students who are seeking financial aid, as the university has a need-blind policy for all applicants.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $53,430

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 11%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 22%

6. Stanford University

  Stanford, CA

Stanford’s Bechtel International Center helps students from across the globe—including the ones hailing from 63 countries from its Class of 2022—adjust to life in the United States.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $51,354

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 10%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 23%

7. Duke University

  Durham, NC

Duke’s international student population has grown substantially over the years. In 2017, the university reported that it saw a 42% increase in international students over the last 5 years, with 60% of those students hailing from China, India, South Korea, Canada, and Turkey.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $55,960

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): N/A

Percentage of International Students (Total): 19%

8. University of Pennsylvania

  Philadelphia, PA

16% of UPenn’s Class of 2022 is made up of international students, with 398 students coming from 87 different countries.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $55,584

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): N/A

Percentage of International Students (Total): 19%

9. Johns Hopkins University

  Baltimore, MD

Johns Hopkins is home to over 4,000 international students from over 130 countries—its undergraduate population alone represents 57 nations.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $53,740

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): N/A

Percentage of International Students (Total): 19%

10. California Institute of Technology

    Pasadena, CA

Caltech's student body is largely made up of international students, the majority of whom come from China, India, and Canada. Given its research university status, it’s a popular option for those who are pursuing doctorates.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $52,362

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 8%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 19%

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11. Dartmouth College

   Hanover, NH

Dartmouth offers an extensive number of resources for its international students to ensure that they’re set up for success, including international student profiles for its prospective applicants.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $55,035

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 9%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 16%

12. Brown University

    Providence, RI

In May of 2017, Brown University established the Global Brown Center for International Students to foster intercultural dialogue between students. Its Class of 2022 is comprised of students from 76 nations, including China, India, the United Kingdom, Canada and Singapore.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $55,656

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): N/A

Percentage of International Students (Total): 15%

13. Vanderbilt University

     Nashville, TN

According to its website, Vanderbilt has enrolled students from other countries for all but two years of its existence (it was founded in 1875), and has had students that come from all over the world, including Germany and Mexico.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $49,816

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 7%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 11%

14. Cornell University

     Ithaca, NY

With seven colleges offering disciplines like hotel administration and agricultural sciences, over 5,000 students from all over the world comprise Cornell's international population. Aside from China, India, Canada, South Korea, and Taiwan, Cornell enrolls a large population of students from Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $55,188

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 11%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 22%

15. Rice University

    Houston, TX

In the last decade, the international student population at Rice has increased by 59%. In fact, nearly one in every four students at Rice is international. While 80% of its international population is from Asia, Rice has also attracted students from countries such as Australia, Nigeria, Belarus, and Mexico, which borders Rice's home state of Texas.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $47,350

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 11%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 24%

16. University of California, Los Angeles

    Los Angeles, CA

Widely regarded as one of the top state universities in the U.S., UCLA is home to nearly 7,000 international students from over 100 countries, including Japan, Australia, and Brazil.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $41,294

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 12%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 16%

17. Emory University

    Atlanta, GA

Emory, located in sunny Georgia, has become a popular choice for international students. Its international student population increased by 35% between 2013 and 2017, with its College of Arts & Sciences, Laney Graduate School, and Goizueta Business School hosting the largest number of international students.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $51,306

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 17%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 17%

18. Georgetown University

     Washington, D.C.

Nestled in the heart of the American capital of Washington, D.C., Georgetown is highly regarded for its international studies programs. It's no wonder, then, that Georgetown is one of the best universities for international students. Countries represented include Indonesia, Kosovo, and the Philippines.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $54,104

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 6%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 16%

19. University of California, Berkeley

     Berkeley, CA

Berkeley is often named the #1 public university worldwide and is continually ranked as a top state university in California. Its international student body has increased rapidly over the past two years, especially for its graduate programs.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $43,232

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 12%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 15%

20.  University of Southern California

      Los Angeles, CA

USC is home to over 11,000 international students, the majority of whom come from China, India, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Annual Tuition and Fees: $56,225

Percentage of International Students (Undergraduate): 13%

Percentage of International Students (Total): 24%

The takeaway

Of course, there are many other American colleges and universities that are not on this list but are still great options for international students. It's also important to keep in mind that the majority of U.S. universities have specific requirements for international applications, including proof of English language proficiency and credential evaluations, so set aside some time to do some research before determining the best U.S. universities for you to consider.

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