10 Best Grad Schools for International Students

Written by Grad School Center Team We are a passionate team of experienced educators and advisors at, dedicated to guiding students through their graduate education journey. Our experts, with advanced degrees across various disciplines, offer personalized advice, up-to-date program information, and practical insights into application processes.

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Updated: February 28, 2024, Reading time: 15 minutes

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As one of the world’s biggest and most thriving countries, the United States of America is a leading destination for international students. With over 4,300 higher education institutions, international students can choose whatever major they please to study, from San Francisco for technology, Texas for agriculture, and New York for finance. 

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The diverse educational landscape of the United States offers thousands of opportunities for academic and personal growth. According to Statista, more than 1 million international students are enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Factors to Consider for International Students

University Reputation

It’s important to know that Ivy League institutions are not the only ones capable of offering high-quality education in the US. Domestic competitive students are having difficulty gaining admission to these schools, let alone being students from a different country with a different educational system. 

You don’t necessarily have only to aim for the Ivy Leagues to experience high-quality American education. Other universities out there accept more international students each year. You need to broaden your search. 

Here are a few quick guidelines to evaluate a higher education institution’s quality and rigor: 


Accreditation is the first factor to consider in selecting a college or university in the United States. There are two main types of accreditation: National accreditation and Regional accreditation. As a graduate student, especially if you plan to continue a career in the US, you should look for a regionally accredited school. 

There are six regional accrediting agencies for US colleges and universities:

Additionally, depending on your desired program, you should also consider programmatic accreditation. If you’re applying for an MBA, ensure that the business school/program is recognized by AACSB Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or ACBSP Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs

Faculty Credentials

Faculty members with more education are more adept in imparting knowledge to students. The academics’ qualifications include details about their expertise and experience in their respective domains, which speaks to their capacity as teachers.

For example, instructors who hold a Ph.D. are likely to be more competent than those who only hold a master’s degree in their professions. Similarly, professors with professional degrees can impart industry-focused education to students because they have a practical understanding of the subject.

Reputable colleges and universities have a dedicated web page that lists their faculty members, including their educational backgrounds and achievements. 

Research Facilities, Campus Services, and Opportunities

Another important aspect you should consider is the institution’s research facilities, student services, and opportunities for growth and development. As an international graduate student, you’re likely coming to this country without any friends or industry connections. You should ensure that the school offers several networking opportunities, academic advising, and research opportunities. 

Reputable graduate schools may also offer counseling services and other campus services that help and guide international students in navigating their new academic journey. 

Graduation and Retention Rates

High graduation and retention rates suggest that students are satisfied with their educational experience and that the university provides the necessary support for academic success. Conversely, consistently low rates may indicate issues with the quality of education or student support services.

Financial Considerations 

As an international student, you should expect to pay more fees—double or triple—than your US residents. Some colleges charge comparatively high fees compared to others, making them inaccessible even for well-off families. It is one of the harsh realities of being an international student. It also doesn’t help that student visas frequently limit the amount of work you may do while studying overseas. 

According to the NCES, the average cost of graduate schools in the US is $20,513. But since you’re a non-resident enrollee, you should expect to pay up to $60k in tuition alone. The good news is that some colleges and universities offer financial assistance to the most talented pool of international students. 

International students can apply for scholarships from the US government and numerous US universities based on merit, need, participation in sports, and occasionally extracurricular performance. Based on their qualifications, students can apply for the best scholarships available. These scholarships pay the largest accumulated expenditures, such as living expenses and tuition.

If you’re a very talented student in your country and you get accepted into a US college and university, you can usually apply for home-country assistance. Students should be aware that receiving assistance from these sources may have requirements, such as returning home after finishing their education in the US. 

According to the Institute of International Education, 1% of international graduate students in the US were primarily funded by a foreign sponsor, while 4% of these students received their primary funding from a foreign government or university.

Main point: choose a university that aligns with your budget and consider exhausting all financial aid resources.  

Graduate School Application Process

Attending a graduate school in another country equates to an intimidating application process due to regulatory, logistical, and cultural factors. For one, acquiring a student visa (F or J visa) necessitates a lot of paperwork, evidence of financial capability, and compliance with particular requirements. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the application process.

Step 1: Meet general admission requirements.

The equivalent of a four-year bachelor’s degree in the United States must be completed by international applicants, including all state and internal/external exams needed for the degree. A four-year US bachelor’s degree may not always be comparable to certain three- or four-year general degrees.

You might be considered for admission if you have earned a graduate degree, an honors degree, or more undergraduate credits than the required years for a bachelor’s degree.

Since the grading system for each country differs, you need to get your local degree grade points translated. Each institution will have recommendations on where you should have your grades translated. In general, less selective US graduate schools require applicants to have a GPA of 2.75 or higher, while selective schools require a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. 

Step 2: Complete admission requirements.

The most common admission requirements for graduate schools in the US are unofficial copies of English-translated international transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions. Once admitted, you must submit an official course-by-course academic evaluation of your previously earned degree.

Another requirement is to demonstrate English proficiency by taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and to prepare glowing recommendation letters. 

Some graduate programs will also require you to take additional tests, such as the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). 

Step 3: Wait for the Admission Decision,

Most graduate schools don’t require their international applicants to submit other documents, such as copies of their visas and proof of financial support, at the initial stage of the application process. All you have to do now is wait for the university’s letter about whether or not you’re accepted. 

During the wait, applicants usually start processing their visa requirements and proof of financial support. On the other hand, some applicants start processing these requirements when they’re already accepted. 

If you’ve been rejected, that’s totally okay. You can reach out to the admissions office, ask what’s lacking in your application, work on it, and reapply after 3-6 months. You can also submit another application at a different school.

10 Best Grad Schools for International Students

New York University

New York University

New York University, one of the largest MSCHE-accredited private universities in the US, offers one of the best graduate programs and opportunities for international students. According to NYU, its student body comprises students from 130 countries. The most popular majors at NYU include:

NYU advises international students enrolled as visiting students to obtain an F-1/J-1 visa, avoiding B-1/B-2 visas or ESAs. NYU applicants can apply as first-year applicants if they have completed their country’s pre-university education, completed an internationally recognized equivalent, or applied from countries with school-leaving qualifications based on the British educational model.

The NYU Office of Global Services (OGS) provides more information about international students requirements.

Northeastern University

Northeastern University

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Northeastern University has over 20,000 international students enrolled in their undergraduate and graduate programs. Accredited by the NECHE, international graduate students who qualify for Northeastern can enjoy the university’s student services, academic programs, and networking opportunities. Northeasters also boasts one of the highest external research funds, amounting to $282.4 million.

Popular majors at Northeastern include:

Northeastern has nine schools that have specific requirements for international students. Unlike other colleges and universities that do not meet the required English proficiency exam scores, Northeaster offers an alternative option. Students who do not meet the minimum requirement can apply to the Global Pathways program

Other application requirements include a personal statement, CV, letters of recommendation, and, depending on the program, official GRE, LSAT, or GMAT scores. International students can seek application guidance via the school’s Get Advice page

Columbia University

Columbia University - School of Professional Studies

Another prominent university for international students is MSCHE-accredited Columbia University in New York. As a private Ivy League institution, you should expect a competitive admission process at Columbia. However, Columbia’s admission process is largely the same for all its applicants, regardless of where they came from. 

While most international applicants accepted into Columbia’s graduate programs are graduates of regionally accredited bachelor’s degrees in the United States, applicants with a bachelor’s in their countries may still qualify.

The Graduate School determines the equivalency of international baccalaureate degrees, allowing only students with a superior examination record and proficiency in rapid idiomatic English to apply. The Graduate School requires minimum scores of 600 on the TOEFL paper-and-pencil test, 100 on the TOEFL internet-based test, and 7.5 on the IELTS.

The Graduate School welcomes applicants with or preparing to earn 3-year bachelor’s degrees from countries participating in the Bologna Process.

This university is best for international students who want to customize their academic journey. 

Arizona State University

Arizona State University

Arizona State University, accredited by the HLC, is consistently ranked as the most innovative university in the United States. It is one of the most preferred institutions by international students due to its academic rigor, easier admission process, helpful professional support system, and affordable tuition costs. It’s a top choice for those majoring in Business, Healthcare, and STEM degrees. 

There are over 17,000 students enrolled at ASU pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees. The application process for international students is similar to that of domestic students, except for English proficiency proof. After admission, they must obtain a US visa, including a graduate financial guarantee. All transcripts must be original, with an official English translation. 

ASU admits applicants with a bachelor’s degree or higher from a US or internationally recognized institution, typically a “B” grade point average in the last 60-90 hours of undergraduate coursework.

University of Southern California

University of Southern California

24% of the University of Southern California’s total student population is from other countries, making it one of the US’s best and most diverse higher education institutions. Its international students will experience a vibrant student life on campus, nestled in the heart of Los Angeles. Moreover, international students are qualified to pursue some courses online to minimize their transportation costs. 

International students can expect to have the same treatment as their domestic peers. However, applicants from countries experiencing armed conflict, social unrest, or natural disasters may experience special treatment regarding the submission of required papers.

International students must have their bachelor’s or graduate degree grades translated and must translate to a 3.0 GPA or higher. Applicants with high GRE/GMAT scores often get prioritized for acceptance. 

Applying to a graduate program at USC is a straightforward process. You don’t need to submit copies of your passport or evidence of financial support at the application stage. This approach lets you focus on your application, confident that the administrative details will be handled later.

Among the best majors at USC includes:

University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign

University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign

The Graduate College of the HLC-accredited University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign offers one of the best and most assisted international application processes. The university’s admissions team is readily available to assist applicants with any inquiries or concerns they may have throughout the application journey.

It is recommended that international applicants submit their admissions application ten months before the semester in which they plan to enroll. Admission requirements include F-1 or J-1 visa or Proof of Funding Documentation and English proficiency test scores. Other specific admission requirements will depend on your country of origin.

You can visit the university’s “Admissions Requirements for a Country” page and look up your country for detailed information on the specific requirements. 

The University of Illinois Urbana Champaign is mostly popular for its Engineering, Business, Social Science, Healthcare, and Communication degrees. 

Boston University

Boston University - Graduate Education

Nestled in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts, Boston University is a distinguished academic institution with over 30,000 students, 20% from 50 foreign countries. Boston University maintains a small, intimate educational environment, allowing international students to delve deeply into their studies and form strong connections within a close-knit community.

This NECHE-accredited institution offers limited scholarships and other financial aid opportunities for its international applicants. 

To qualify for Boston’s international student financial assistance, you need to stand out from the crowd. High grades, strong academic record, leadership skills, community involvement, and positive global impact can enhance financial aid eligibility. The most popular majors at Boston include Social Sciences, Business and Management, and Engineering.

International students must submit transcripts from all colleges and universities attended in their country, a resume/CV, and English-language proficiency scores. To study at Boston University’s Metropolitan College on an F-1 visa, students must maintain full-time status with at least 12 credits. Boston will not offer you visa sponsorship if you plan to pursue an online program.

Purdue University

Purdue University

Purdue University, accredited by the HLC, is the most sought-after institution for students who want to pursue a master’s degree online. Purdue says 4,760  of their graduate and professional students are from 112 countries. Moreover, Purdue has over 700 international faculty and staff. They are mostly known for their strength in Business, Engineering, and Computer Science majors. 

International applicants interested in applying at Purdue, whether to pursue an online or on-campus graduate program, must meet the same general admission requirements as domestic students. Since the grading system varies by country, you must have your transcripts translated and evaluated. The most common graduate school applicants accepted into their programs have a 3.4 GPA. 

Merit-based financial aid may be available for graduate students from private sources, and loans may be available as long as a US citizen can co-sign it. These amounts are limited to the estimated cost of attendance, determined by the Division of Financial Aid.

University of California Berkeley

University of California Berkeley

Accredited by the WASC, the University of California Berkeley is a highly sought-after UC campus with many international students. 16.2% of its student body is made up of international students. UC Berkeley is famous for international students interested in doing research within their fields. Social and Computer and Information Sciences are UC Berkeley’s most famous majors. 

International students can explore scholarship opportunities from private organizations, considering their background, field of study, and career paths. They can also research the department they are interested in and find awards or scholarships. International graduate students can also seek financial assistance from their departments, including Graduate Student Researcher and Instructorships.

.International applicants must provide official translations of US degree equivalency documents in languages other than English or Spanish from institutions, ministries of education, certified translators, or World Education Services International Credential Advantage Package evaluations.

University of California San Diego

University of California San Diego

Another UC campus standing out as one of the best US universities for international students is UC San Diego. International students at UC San Diego make up 38% of the student body.

UC Berkeley and UC San Diego campuses offer almost the same opportunities for international students, including their admission requirements and process. However, UC San Diego provides a cheaper tuition fee than UC Berkeley. 

UC San Diego is mostly popular for its esteemed Jacobs School of Engineering and School of Medicine.

The highly esteemed Jacobs School of Engineering and School of Medicine at UCSD are well-known to students worldwide. Students can enhance their knowledge and enthusiasm for their academic discipline by enrolling in UCSD’s demanding, research-focused academic programs. Another benefit of studying in the US is that the university is close to California’s most beautiful beaches.

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