Education in the U.S.
The Education System in the United States follows a pattern similar to other countries:
- Early childhood (or pre-kindergarten) education
- Primary (or elementary) school
- Middle (or junior high) school
- Secondary (or high) school
- Postsecondary (college, career, or technical schools) education
Most education policy is decided at the state and local levels. The federal government role in education is limited, but the Department of Education:
Provides federal financial aid for education and monitors those funds
Collects data on America’s schools and reports findings
Focuses national attention on key educational laws and issues
Prohibits discrimination and ensures equal access to education
Works to improve teaching performance
If you want to learn English or need to join an English as a Second Language (ESL) program for school or work, these resources can help you find local and online courses:
Schools or Nonprofit Organizations: If you live in the U.S., every state, county, and city has its own education programs and resources for learning English. If you have children, talk to their school staff, or contact a community college, university, or nonprofit organization to find local programs.
Internet: Learn English from home with the website USALearns.org or download the application to your phone or tablet to practice on the go. Listen to ShareAmerica.gov for audio conversations to learn English.
Libraries: In some communities, libraries offer English classes and materials to study. Find a library near you.
If you are concerned that you might have been scammed or overcharged by an ESL program, contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint.
College or University (Postsecondary)
These five steps explain the process an international student can follow to study in a university or college in the U.S.:
1. Research Your Options. Postsecondary education includes six degree levels: associate, bachelor, first-professional, master, advanced intermediate, and research doctorate. The U.S. system does not offer a second or higher doctorate, but does offer postdoctoral research programs.
Find an Educational Advising Center in Your Country – Worldwide centers give international students advice on higher education and study opportunities in the United States.
College Navigator – Find and compare colleges by location, type of institution, programs, majors, and more.
Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) – Certified School Verify if the U.S. institution of higher education that you are interested in is certified.
Stories by International Students – Learn about the experience of studying in the U.S. from other foreign students.
2. Finance Your Studies. The U.S. government does not provide loans, grants, or general scholarship assistance for international students. As an international student, you will have to find alternative sources of funding such as:
Your Home Country Education Authorities – Many countries offer foreign study funding for their own nationals who are admitted to an approved program or institution abroad and who qualify for the assistance program.
The International Admissions Office – Many U.S. academic institutions assist international students. Contact the international admissions office at the schools you are interested in to learn if you may be eligible for assistance.
Scholarships and Grants – Private foundations, businesses, and nonprofit organizations offer scholarships and grants for study and research. Use the U.S. government’s free online scholarship search tool.
Exchange Programs Administered by the U.S. Government – These exchange programs, including the Fulbright Program and others at all education levels, provide assistance to qualified international students.
3. Complete your application. In the U.S., colleges and universities establish their own admission requirements, including third-party standardized tests. Follow the application requirements set by the admissions office of the institution in which you are interested.
Foreign Diploma and Credit Recognition – Higher educational institutions and licensing boards in individual states evaluate academic coursework, degrees, and professional licenses. The U.S. has no single authority to evaluate foreign credentials.
Standardized Tests – As part of the application process, some programs require students to take one or more standardized tests. Plan to take your tests in advance so your scores are available when you submit your application.
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) – Many colleges and universities require this test to measure your English language skills.
4. Apply for your visa. Before you can apply for a student visa, you must first be accepted by a U.S. institution of higher education that is certified by the SEVP.
Student Visas – Learn more about the types of student visas, how to apply, fees, and documentation requirements.
How to Prepare for Your Visa Appointment – Read these recommendations before your appointment at a U.S. Embassy or consulate.
5. Prepare for departure. Consider exploring these resources while you plan your move to the U.S.
How to Navigate the U.S. Immigration System – Find out how to get started, arrive, stay, and depart from the U.S.
Life in the U.S. – Learn about American holidays, states, and other useful information about the country.
Working While You Study in the U.S. – Find information for students and exchange visitors (F-1, and M-1 visa categories) pursuing employment in the United States.
Training Opportunities in the U.S. – Eligible international students and new graduates have the opportunity to gain on-the-job learning that supplements knowledge gained in their academic studies.
Foreign Visitors Driving in the U.S. – Get quick facts for short-term visitors, students, and residents about driving in the U.S.
English as a Second Language – Learn English and improve basic reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.
Income taxes – Some international students may be subject to income tax.
Elementary, Middle School, or High School
Find information on studying in the U.S. as a foreign student in primary or secondary school:
Search for a U.S. School – The school you choose must have a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certification. Public elementary schools (K to 8) are not eligible for SEVP certification.
Regulations for Foreign Students in Public High Schools – International students may only attend public high school for a maximum period of 12 months and they must reimburse the full, per-capita cost of attending.
Regulations for Foreign Students in Private Schools – Unlike when attending a public school, an international student at a private school may attend from K to 12, and for longer than 12 months.
Visas for International Students – After being accepted by a SEVP-certified school, an international student can apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or consulate.
Department of Education by State – Contact state education offices for state-specific programs and information for international primary and secondary students.
Exchange Programs – The U.S. Department of State offers programs for international students who want to come to the U.S. for a cultural, educational, or professional exchange.