Complete guide to studying in the United States

The United States is one of the leading countries in education and boasts many of the most renowned universities and educational institutions in the world. Not only do its institutions have up-to-date and reputable programs, but their facilities are up to par and have all the necessary amenities.

In any case, studying in the United States can be a unique opportunity that will open the doors of many companies or research teams that will allow you to fulfill yourself professionally and lead a higher standard of living. Although all this comes at a high cost, with this guide you will discover the necessary steps to study in the United States and ways to save on your studies, how to apply for scholarships, work at the same time or use payment methods for people without borders such as Wise to send money or pay abroad cheaply.

How to study in the United States

Studying in the USA can be life-changing and a tremendous boost to your career, but are you really ready to take the plunge? First of all, you should keep in mind that this cannot be an overnight decision and that you have to consider whether you are willing to take the step of leaving family and friends behind and possibly sacrificing some of your current savings, or having to wait until you have enough money together, to go to the United States.

If you are sure about it, go ahead! You will have to prepare everything in advance because in the case of universities, applications are usually made about 9 months in advance. In the case of language schools these are more flexible, but you will need to do it with enough time in advance to process your visa if you are going to study for more than three months.

Ideally, the best option is to study in the USA with a scholarship that will provide you with financial support, as both tuition and the cost of living in this country is very high and for a person from another country it can be a challenge. You will need tens of thousands of dollars a year to make ends meet, so it is important that you have or will have a stable source of income, as well as sufficient savings.

Of course, in addition to your determination, planning and money, you will also need specific skills, especially if you want to study at a university. Many universities will require you to have a specific level of English or to demonstrate knowledge of certain subjects, so find out about the requirements for each career and study in advance to pass the selection tests!

The educational system in the United States

Education in the United States depends on the states and local governments, so it varies widely from one area to another. In most schools, attendance is compulsory from age 5-8 through age 16-18. The last grade is generally called year 12, after which a high school diploma is awarded and the student can go on to college or other higher education.

The schools and institutes are mostly public, although there are 25% of private institutions in which about 10% of the students are educated. At the university level, the percentage of students in private institutions rises to more than 30%. In order to attend these universities, high school GPA (grade point average) grades are usually taken into account, ranging from F to A or 0 to 4.

In the U.S. educational system a lot of importance is given to class work and in fact by working daily it is quite easy to pass. That is why exams are not such an important part of the grade and memorization is much less important than in countries like Spain.

Requirements to study in the United States

Studying abroad can be a time-consuming process with a lot of paperwork for both enrollment and obtaining a visa. Generally, if it is an exchange program through a Spanish school or a program that can be studied without a visa these requirements are more lax.

These are the general requirements for admission to any U.S. educational education:
  • Valid passport
  • Payment of tuition fees
  • Justification of funds for the period of stay
  • Study at a school monitored by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), although this does not apply to students who do not require a visa.
Requirements for enrollment in universities are somewhat more demanding. The following is the documentation required to study at a higher educational institution in the United States:
  • Transcript or degree, preferably translated.
  • Letter of motivation
  • Some institutions require proof of English language proficiency in tests such as TOEFL, IELTS, PTE or C1 Advanced.
  • Pay application fees at each university, about 100 USD per application.
The most prestigious schools may require you to pass specific tests or other paperwork. Once admitted, you will need to apply for an F, M (or J-1 for exchange students) visa depending on the type of education, pay SEVIS I-901 and visa fees, which can exceed $500 USD.

Study English in the United States

The United States is a perfect country if you are interested in learning and practicing this important international language. You can enroll in a school in the United States and if you do it in language courses of less than three months and that do not exceed 18 hours per week you will not need a visa, but you will be able to study with the tourist visa. This will be useful, for example, to follow a study program during the summer vacation.

Otherwise, you will need to study in an approved institution and do all the paperwork. You can check some of the schools that teach English and filter by the city or type of course you are interested in.

There are also other ways to learn English in the United States, such as WWOOF, which allows you to receive room and board in exchange for helping in the field, Workaway, Helpstay or Workingtraveller to get a roof over your head while you learn English in exchange for helping with all kinds of tasks.

Studying at a university in the United States

If you are currently studying at a Spanish school or university, it is very likely that your educational institution will allow you to study for one or two semesters at other universities around the world, often including U.S. universities. This will usually save you from paying expensive and high tuition fees and selection processes at U.S. universities.

If you simply want to begin undergraduate, master's or doctoral studies at an American university or other institution of higher education, the SEVIS mentioned above has a search engine of educational institutions approved to accept foreign students. You can go from there to see what studies each university offers that may be of interest to you and check the requirements and selection processes.

The quality of education at U.S. universities is undeniable, but the cost to pay in return is high. The cheapest, usually less than 5,000 USD per year, are the two-year studies in the so-called community colleges, although these only give access to the so-called associate degrees. For a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree, you have the state universities, which cost around USD 25,000, and finally the private universities with tuition fees that are on the average of 35,000 USD. Accommodation and other expenses must be added to these costs, since they only include tuition.

Scholarships to study in the United States

One of the ways to study without going broke, in addition to getting a part-time job, is to obtain a scholarship to study in the United States that provides financial assistance.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of scholarships to study in the USA:
  • Athletic scholarships: if you are a high performance athlete you can opt for scholarships from US universities to study a career of your liking while training at the same time.
  • ISEP: it is not a scholarship in itself, but an exchange program for universities around the world to make exchanges in American universities, but some universities offer scholarships for these exchanges.
  • Microsoft Scholarship Program: scholarship to financially support the best students in computer-related fields.
As most scholarships depend on the university where you study, your program of study or the group to which you belong, you can use the search engine of the Department of State to find among the more than 8,000 scholarships offered in the country. You can also consult the list provided by the Spanish Ministry of Education.

What are the advantages of studying and living in the United States?

The high quality of education in the United States is undoubtedly one of the great advantages that make it worth the time invested in studying in the United States. You will get an exquisite education and develop your full potential with programs tailored to the capabilities of the student body that will increase your value in the eyes of companies around the world, including the U.S., where it will not be very difficult to get a job offer to stay and live in the country if you end up liking the experience.

Whether you decide to return to Spain or not, during your stay you will undoubtedly improve your English while enjoying a vast country with many national parks and places to visit and including all kinds of climates, from the sunny beaches of Miami or California to the glaciers of Alaska. All this while enjoying one of the most influential cuisines in the world.

In addition, the United States is still a country of immigrants, so you will feel at home at all times and you will be able to meet people like you from the very beginning.

Tips to get the most out of your studies abroad

Open an account to make and receive payments.

In a country with such high prices as the United States, it is important not to waste a penny or a cent. Banks often take advantage of the uncompetitive market to charge high fees when converting currencies or sending money between countries. Wise is the solution to this problem.

The Wise multi-currency account allows you to send, receive and spend money with very low fees and the average exchange rate. This account allows you to manage more than 50 currencies and with it you will enjoy local bank details of accounts in dollars, euros or pounds to receive transfers locally saving the commissions of international transfers. All this added to the fact that it is a fully regulated service makes it highly recommended to open an account with Wise even before arriving in the United States.

Get a local phone upon arrival

One of the peculiarities of telephony in the United States is that two telephone networks coexist: GSM and CDMA. GSM is the one used in Spain and most other countries in the world, while CDMA is specific to the United States. Of the four major carriers, Verizon and Sprint use CDMA technology, while AT&T and T-Mobile use the GSM network. This is important because if you already have a mobile device it is very likely that it is not compatible with the CDMA network and in that case you should purchase a new mobile if you plan to use the Verizon or Sprint networks.

The United States is not known for having the cheapest phone plans or with the most extras in the world, but looking around it is not difficult to find some interesting offers. Operators like Tello have plans with 2 GB and unlimited calls and messages for 12 USD per month, while others like Mint Mobile also have interesting plans offering 12 GB for 20 USD per month. There are many other operators, some of the ones with the best offers, apart from those already mentioned, are Red Pocket and US Mobile.