International Students’ Guide to Studying in New York

New York is home to a sizable population of international students and standout schools. See why so many international students pursue their degrees in New York.

portrait of James Mielke
by James Mielke

Updated May 26, 2022

Edited by Jared McMasters
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International Students’ Guide to Studying in New York
Image Credit: MoMo Productions / DigitalVision / Getty Images


The United States is home to many of the world's best colleges and universities. As a result, hundreds of thousands of international students come to the United States each year. Owing to its diversity of cultures and standout schools, New York is often a popular option for international students. Manhattan's New York University is home to over 19,000 international students from over 140 countries.

New York City rightfully garners a lot of attention and is home to a sizable number of international students. Because the state of New York has more than 200 colleges and universities, prospective students should carefully consider their needs and wants from their future schools.

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The following guide covers why New York is an excellent option for international students, what prospective international students should consider when choosing their school, and the college and visa application process. Keep reading to learn more about why New York is a popular option for international students.

Why Study in New York?

For international students unfamiliar with the United States, New York, and New York City might stand out as locations emblematic of the country as a whole. But beyond some preconceptions, the state of New York is home to great schools, rich culture, and institutions that are particularly friendly toward international students.

New York City is an incredibly diverse metropolis that offers standout academics, rich culture, and access to seemingly endless entertainment options. And while NYC may receive most of the attention, upstate schools like Syracuse University, Cornell University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offer standout academics with day-to-day living costing considerably less.

While California is home to the largest number of international students, New York is not far behind—New York is home to more than 100,000 international learners.

Studying in New York: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • New York is one of the most diverse cities in the United States, with students and citizens from around the globe. A truly international city.
  • New York state offers standout academic quality with top-ranked schools like New York University and Columbia University.
  • New York is an international business hub, and students can take advantage of seemingly endless networking opportunities.
  • The Big Apple is rich with culture and entertainment. International students in New York have access to museums, music, theater, and sports.

Cons

  • New York real estate is expensive with equally pricey rent. Students typically live on a limited budget, so they should consider campus-based housing to cut costs.
  • In addition to rent, the general cost of living in cities might feel prohibitively expensive for some students.
  • Tuition rates for international students heading to New York mirror the high price of rent and cost of living.
  • New York is the most populous city in the United States, and some international learners may find the fast pace overwhelming.

How Much Does It Cost to Study in New York?

The cost of studying in New York state can vary dramatically between schools and locations. Because tuition is one major contributor to the cost of college, prospective international students should evaluate tuition rates carefully.

While elite private institutions tend to cost the most, international students at more inexpensive public schools will still pay a premium for their education.

Students pursuing a degree in New York City can expect everything to cost significantly more. Rent, food, transportation, and entertainment all cost more and international students should budget accordingly. Conversely, living in places like Albany, Rochester, and Syracuse is dramatically cheaper than in NYC.

In addition to tuition rates, the true cost of college includes campus fees, housing, food, travel, and entertainment. Prospective international learners can reach out to schools to better understand what to prepare for financially.

How Do I Choose a College in New York?

New York is a relatively expansive state, and a student's experience can vary dramatically depending on their location. In addition to academic interests, prospective international students should consider other elements like extracurricular activities, international student population, and cost when choosing a college.

Identify Your Interests

When choosing a New York-based college or university, prospective students should identify their interests and passions.

As a result, learners can benefit from researching academic programs, school-based student groups, and cultural offerings outside of the classroom. Academic details are vital, but options for entertainment and other extracurricular activities can significantly enhance a higher education experience.

Research Your Options

New York is a big state with hundreds of colleges and universities, so taking time to research options is essential. When narrowing down this list of schools, state-based rankings can help focus a prospective student's focus. Additionally, rankings are available based on cities and even academic majors.

Once an international student is familiar with New York cities, city-based guides and rankings can offer a more targeted view of potential colleges and universities. In addition to New York, cities like Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany are home to many stand-out institutions.

Alongside rankings and personal interests, other data points and factors can help international learners find the right school. Graduation rates, access to scholarships, and student services for international degree-seekers can significantly impact a decision on whether to enroll or not.

Determine Location

A school's location can influence multiple factors, including the cost of living, access to familiar cultural touchstones, and community support. As a result, some cities and towns in New York are better options for international students than others. New York University has the highest number of international students of any school in the United States.

The best college towns in New York offer international students strong academics, a supportive community, and access to fun and meaningful opportunities outside the classroom. Researching locations is critical as each student has their own unique set of needs and interests.

Evaluate Your Eligibility

Eligibility requirements for international applicants can vary between schools. Prospective learners typically need to hold the international equivalent of completing a high school diploma. This can include A-levels in the British educational model or the IB Diploma.

Additionally, international students transferring from recognized institutions or accredited American schools typically need to meet the same admission benchmarks as resident students.

Consider Cost

Cost is often a deciding factor when determining which college or university is the best choice. While tuition for in-state residents at public institutions is relatively affordable, international students do not have access to those reduced rates. That said, public institutions typically cost less than elite private schools.

While tuition has a significant financial impact, the true cost of college encompasses more than a program's sticker price. Various school-based fees, books, travel, and room and board add up quickly and can vary depending on location. Before enrolling, international students can search for scholarships and other financial aid options to make college more affordable.

Review Support Services

Talented professors can enhance an academic experience, but the best schools offer robust student support services. These services can include academic advising, mentorship programs, career counseling, mental health support, and internship opportunities.

Top schools for international learners provide unique services that can help ease the academic, cultural, and language-based transitions they may face.

How Do I Apply to College in New York?

International students applying to college in New York can typically anticipate some standard requirements similar to resident degree-seekers. Traditional application materials include official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and application essays. While some schools require standardized test scores, many are forgoing ACT/SAT scores to encourage a more equitable application process.

Because the application process for international students is largely the same as for residents, the Common App is a popular option to streamline the admission process.

But while the process is similar for international learners, some schools require applicants to complete an English as a second language exam. Required tests can include the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

How to Obtain a Student Visa to Study in New York

Once an international student gains admission into a New York school, they must obtain a student visa through the United States Embassy in their home country. An F-1 or student visa is available to full-time international students pursuing a certificate or degree.

But before an F-1 visa is secured, students must complete the I-20/DS-2019 application for newly admitted international students. In addition to the completed online application, students must include a copy of their admission letter, a copy of their passport photo page, and relevant financial documents to ensure they can meet the school's financial requirements.

Once the DS-2019 or I-20 is issued, international students can apply for their student visas. This process is rife with red tape, but admitted students can reach out to their school to help them. Because the visa process is often time-consuming, students should account for possible delays and administrative hiccups.

Frequently Asked Questions About International Students Studying in New York

Is New York good for international students?

New York is a solid option for international students. In addition to having one of the largest populations of international learners, New York offers academic options in cities like New York and those in more rural settings. Manhattan's New York University hosts the highest number of international students of any school in the US.

Alongside great academic options, New York -- especially New York City -- provides students with seemingly endless internships and career options. And because a metropolis like New York is home to a sizable and diverse number of cultures and ethnicities, international students may have access to various avenues for support that can ease their transition into school in the US.

Is New York expensive for international students?

Yes. International students typically pay tuition rates similar to out-of-state students, with prices sometimes rivaling private institutions. Additionally, the cost of living in a city like New York can have a serious budgetary impact.

When considering which New York school is the best option, students should evaluate the true cost of college. In addition to tuition, campus-based fees, food, housing, travel, and entertainment should receive some consideration. International students can mitigate their financial burden through scholarships and other financial aid options for international learners.

What are the best colleges for international students in New York?

The best college is one that offers international students the academic, social, and support they need. Additionally, tuition rates, cost of living, and scholarship opportunities can shape the best choice in higher education. Before applying, prospective students should narrow down a list of possible schools and then conduct considerable research to inform their choice.

New York is home to elite private institutions like Columbia and Syracuse University, and a sizable network of public schools through the state's SUNY system. Colleges and universities in New York are available in big cities and small rural towns and include vast research institutions and small liberal arts colleges.

What are the cheapest universities in New York for international students?

The cheapest universities in New York for international students are the institutions that offer generous scholarships, affordable housing, and a lower cost of living.

As an international student, tuition rates in New York inevitably vary between schools. Public institutions typically end up costing less than private institutions.

How do I get a student visa for New York?

While the admission process for international students applying to New York schools is essentially the same as for domestic students, securing a student visa can cause some headaches. The process itself is not incredibly complicated, but prospective international students should approach the visa process in an organized and systematic way.

Students must submit the I-20/DS-2019 application for newly admitted international applicants with their school. Once completed, students can apply for their F-1 student visa through the United States Embassy in their country.

BestColleges.com 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.

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