Higher Education in the USA

There are thousands of higher education institutions in the U.S.A. These Universities are all different and can be evaluated according to their size, ownership, governance, cost, degree programs and more.

Post-secondary Career & Technical Schools:

These institutions provide short training courses and sometimes specialized degree programs. They are sometimes referred to as vocational or technical schools. Most of these institutions are private and operate on a for-profit bias. Moreover, they are approved/regulated by the state and could be accredited.

Community/Junior Colleges:

These are public institutions and may offer many different types of education services depending on the institution. Their services include: vocational & technical programs (just like career & technical schools do), adult/community education, and courses for credit like the ones in public/private colleges/universities that allow students to transfer to universities later on. Some community/junior colleges have full Bachelor Degree programs but it is not as common.

NJCAA and CCCAA institutions play within Community colleges. Some advantages of attending a Community College is you can transfer after two. In those two years, most students/student-athletes gain experience & transfer to other institutions where they can complete their last two years of university and earn a Bachelor’s Degree.

Public/Private Colleges & Universities:

Institutions that offer Bachelor or higher degrees (such as Master’s and PHD’s) are known as “Senior” Colleges/Universities. These schools can offer Associate degrees as well.

Higher Education Institutions:

These could be either non-profit or for-profit, are governed by a board of trustees, and can be either public or private. Institutions of this kind can have one or more campuses or could even be a system of institutions if comprised by several independent institutions.

Public Institutions: are partially funded & controlled by the state. Most of the academic decisions are independent from the state.
Private Institutions: are authorized by the state but are independent from them, meaning they can make their own decisions. They can be for-profit or non-profit and secular or affiliated to a specific religion. Some private institutions can take advantage from some state given funds and can provide public services.

** For ASAL’s purposes & services, Public & Private Colleges & Universities (or higher education institutions) are usually NCAA and NAIA institutions.

Higher education serving specific populations:

Some private and public colleges serve only a particular ethnic group, race, or gender. This comes from history and tradition. Examples include schools that were founded to serve Native Americans, African Americans or only male or female students.

Faith related institutions:

The founding of higher education institutions by religious communities is one of the oldest traditions in this level of education. These institutions function just like any secular institution academic-wise, with the major difference being their religious affiliation.

(*Information obtained from the U.S. Department of Education).

Admissions to a U.S. University

Admission Requirements – Undergraduate Studies

University & College admissions in the USA are competitive. A strong academic background, sufficient financial resources, and proficiency in English are the basic requirements that substantially assist in the admissions process. However, admission requirements for students vary depending on the University or College. *Student-athletes should note that admission requirements for them will be based on the University/College requirements and/or NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA regulations for their University/College. Most Universities/Colleges require a high school diploma with solid coursework in science, mathematics, English, and humanities. Most Universities also require academic entrance examinations such as the TOEFL (PBT or iBT), IELTS, SAT/SAT II, and/or ACT. Higher exam scores and better grades improve your chance of being admitted and in getting good scholarships. International students must have their transcript translated for most universities to accept them. The GPA of most student athletes will determine the minimum score requirement for their SAT or ACT.

The more well-known institutions are often among the most competitive. Even though every international student would love to attend Ivy League schools such as Yale University or Harvard University, not every student will be admitted by these universities unless they have an exceptionally excellent academic transcript and/or an excellent athletic record.

ASAL works to find you the best university to make your collegiate education sustainable and successful. Students need to understand that to apply for a graduate or professional degree program, such as medical school, law school, veterinary school, and dental school; they must first obtain an undergraduate bachelor’s degree. Law students must also generally be licensed attorneys in their own countries before applying for admission to a U.S. Law School.

Admission Requirements for Graduate Studies

In the USA Graduate studies usually refers to Masters and Doctorate degrees. International applicants for graduate studies in the U.S. must be graduates of recognized institutions outside the U.S. and should hold a degree equivalent to a U.S. Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Applicants would be required to submit official transcripts or academic records for all university-level studies completed. If your academic records do not include official evidence of the award of your degree, you must also submit additional documents that verify its award. Records or transcripts must be issued by the school and include the school’s stamp or embossed seal as well as the signature of the authorizing official.

All applicants from countries in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This requirement applies to applicants from non-English-speaking countries. Institutions in the U.S. have different guidelines for what is an English speaking country. ASAL will assist you in determining the University guidelines which apply to you. Most departments, schools, and groups require applicants to take a standardized test such as the General Test of the GRE, a Subject Test of the GRE, the GMAT, MCAT, OAT, LSAT, IELTS, and/or TOEFL. Note that some universities will not require GRE, GMAT, MCAT, OAT or LSAT. Also, most applicants will be required to submit at least three letters of recommendation. Your recommenders will need to give their personal impressions of your academic and intellectual ability, your aptitude in research or professional skills, your character, the quality of your previous work and or your potential in the future.

Living costs in the U.S.A.

The cost for tuition fees for international students varies from $5000 to $60,000 per year (depending on the university/college and financial aid/scholarships obtained). The cost of living in USA depends on the location. In general, students may budget $4000- $13,000/yearly for cost of living.

Many times good scholarships cover the cost of tuition, room, and/or meal plans, hence why it is important to have good records when applying for admissions/scholarships. Students not receiving any aid must be prepared for tuition fees and living cost for initial 2-3 months. So students must either have scholarships or adequate funds to sustain themselves while in school.


International students can work on-campus for a max of 20 hours per week, and are usually helped by the university to find on-campus jobs. The hourly pay for on-campus jobs varies from $5.15 to $15 per hour depending on the state/school. International students are usually not allowed to have paid work or paid internship positions off-campus. However, after the 1st academic year, international students can seek off-campus paid employment after having been granted special permission. There are three types of off-campus employment, namely: Curricular practical training (CPT); Optional Practical Training (OPT- pre/post completion); & Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT).

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