International Students’ Guide to Studying in Texas

International students studying in Texas can find top-rated colleges, good weather, and a lower cost of living. Learn how to choose a college in Texas.

portrait of Marisa Upson
by Marisa Upson

Updated July 29, 2022

Edited by Colin Weickmann
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International Students’ Guide to Studying in Texas


More international students attend colleges and universities in the U.S. than in any other country. In the 2019-2020 academic year, before pandemic-related travel restrictions, over 850,000 international students enrolled in U.S. institutions.

These students travel to the U.S. for many reasons, including its top-rated universities, cultural diversity, and student support. About 77,000 international students made Texas their home in 2019, representing the third most popular state in the nation for study abroad.

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In Texas, international students can find top research facilities and educational programs, great year-round weather, a vast and diverse landscape, and some of the friendliest people in the country. Texas is among the states with the most Fortune 500 companies. It also offers a lower cost of living than many other states.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), full-time nonresident undergraduate students attending colleges in Texas in 2019-2020 paid, on average, about $24,900-$36,000 in tuition and required fees.

Use this guide to learn about studying in the U.S. and the best colleges in Texas.

Why Study in Texas?

Students find many reasons to study in Texas. Texas offers an array of academic choices, including prestigious private institutions that work closely with NASA and leading public research universities.

The state also claims the ninth-largest economy by gross domestic product in the world and ranks 15th among U.S. states with the lowest cost of living.

As the second-largest state in the nation and one of the warmest, it also provides extensive year-round outdoor activities. Students can find beaches, deserts, and mountains within its borders.

Rodeo is the state sport of Texas, and students can find many opportunities to ride horses throughout its many state parks. Other popular activities include rock climbing and hiking as well as swimming, kayaking, and rafting in the many rivers and lakes.

Texas also offers some of the top live music venues in the nation, and students soon learn that Texas barbeque is a way of life. If you're wondering if it's worth studying in Texas, the answer is a resounding yes.

Studying in Texas: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Cultural Diversity: A study conducted in 2021 ranked Texas as the fourth most culturally diverse state in the nation.
  • Academic Quality and Opportunity: Students can choose between prestigious private universities and top-ranked public colleges.
  • Cost of Living: Texas ranks 15th in states with the lowest cost of living, falling below the national average in all costs except utilities.
  • Access to Entertainment and Outdoor Recreation: Texas offers year-round outdoor activities and world-class music festivals.

Cons

  • Tuition Costs: While Texas falls below the national average for out-of-state tuition at public colleges, private institutions are above average.
  • Unclear Admission Requirements: A study in 2019 found college websites in Texas particularly difficult to navigate for international students.
  • Transportation: As the second biggest state, Texas offers some challenges in public transportation.
  • Affordability: Austin, one of the most popular cities for college students, sees significantly higher-than-average rental costs.

How Much Does It Cost to Study in Texas?

The cost to study and live in Texas varies considerably by area and institution. For example, according to NCES, the average tuition and required fees for out-of-state students attending public universities in Texas in 2019-2020 came to almost $25,000. At private institutions, it was just over $36,000.

By comparison, the average tuition and required fees in the U.S. for nonresident students at public and private institutions totaled about $27,000 and $32,800, respectively.

Some of Texas' highly regarded private universities come with high tuition. For example, the total cost for attending Rice University in 2021-2022 came to about $71,745. This included room and board, books, and personal expenses.

Room and board at public colleges in 2019-2020 in Texas averaged about $10,100, falling below the national average. For students looking to live off-campus, rents vary considerably by city. For example, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is about $750 in College Station and $1,570 in Austin as of March 2022.

How Do I Choose a College in Texas?

International students in Texas should consider several factors when choosing a college. This includes ensuring the college offers programs that suit their academic and career goals. Additional considerations include the level of international student support services and a school's accreditation.

The following steps can help international students decide which college is right for them.

Identify Your Interests

Whatever college you choose may be your home for four or more years. Make sure it's a good match by considering if it aligns with your passions and interests. In addition to areas of study, this includes real-world opportunities, a school's culture, and student activities on and off campus.

Research Your Options

Students can narrow their options by researching colleges and programs via reputable resources and college rankings that utilize best practices. Visiting a prospective college's website can also give you an idea of the institution's offerings, culture, and support services.

A few of the data points to consider include the school's admission, enrollment, retention, and graduation rates. These factors can help determine a college's student success rate. Additionally, research your programs of interest, including the courses, concentrations, and fieldwork and internship requirements.

Take a look at the student-to-faculty ratio, the size of the college, and the number of students. You can find international students in Texas at some of the best colleges in Austin, College Station, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

Determine Location

International students can discover Texas' top-rated colleges in big cities and small towns.In fact, many of the top-rated universities are located in the best college towns in Texas.

For example, College Station, a town of just over 120,000 people, is home to Texas A&M University, where more than 6,000 international students attend college. At Rice University in Houston, the largest city in Texas, international students make up 13% of the class of 2025.

Consider the size of the town and the school as well as its location when determining the right college for you.

Evaluate Your Eligibility

Make sure to review a college's admission requirements and assess your eligibility before applying. These may include a qualifying GPA, official SAT or ACT scores, and proof of English proficiency. Students may demonstrate proficiency through minimum TOEFL or IELTS test scores and minimum ACT English or SAT evidence-based reading and writing scores.

Consider Cost

NCES reported that the average cost for tuition and required fees at Texas colleges for nonresident undergraduates ranged from about $25,000-$36,000 in 2019-2020.

International students should also consider the cost of textbooks, transportation, health insurance, rent, and food. Cities throughout Texas vary widely in these costs. For example, the cost of living in Dallas, home to the University of Texas at Dallas, comes in at about 2% above the national average, as of March 2022, according to Payscale. Houston has a cost of living that is 2% lower than the national average.

While international students may not receive federal financial aid, some colleges and third-party organizations fund scholarships for these students. Students may also be eligible for employment opportunities, such as on-campus work.

Review Support Services

Some colleges excel at offering support services for international students. These resources can play a significant role in a student's success.

A few of the student services to look for include pre-arrival support, extended orientation programs, English as a second language programs, and mentorship programs. College academic advisors can also act as guides, helping you achieve your educational and career goals.

How Do I Apply to College in Texas?

Students should carefully review each school's requirements since the undergraduate application process varies by school and program. Typically, students apply through a school's website. Many institutions also accept the Common Application, an online platform that lets you apply to multiple schools at one time.

In addition to the application form, many colleges require ACT or SAT scores, college entrance exams that test a student's readiness for higher education. For nonnative English speakers, applicants may need to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores to show English proficiency.

Additionally, candidates must submit official high school transcripts. If not in English or patterned after the U.S. grading system, applicants may need to obtain a certified English translation and an evaluation of grades based on U.S. standards. Additional requirements may include a college application essay and 2-3 letters of recommendation.

How to Obtain a Student Visa to Study in Texas

International students must obtain a student visa to study in Texas. The F-1 visa is the most common visa issued to students for academic studies. Before students apply for their visas, they must be accepted by a school approved by the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

Once accepted, the school provides students with an I-20 certificate of eligibility. Prospective students must pay an application fee and complete the DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application form. Next, applicants schedule an F-1 visa interview with the U.S. embassy or consulate in their country.

Applicants bring these two forms and a valid passport to the interview. Additional requirements may include proof of financial resources and evidence of their intent to depart the U.S. after finishing their studies.

Frequently Asked Questions About International Students Studying in Texas

Is Texas good for international students?

Texas is the third most popular state in the U.S. for international students. They attend college in the second-largest state in the U.S. for several reasons, including the top-rated colleges, great weather, and an abundance of outdoor activities. Texas also ranks as one of the most culturally diverse states.

This vast state is also known as the oil capital of the U.S. and a growing hub for technology, biomedical sciences, and aerospace. Texas is among the U.S. states with the most Fortune 500 companies. Additionally, many places in the state offer affordable education and a low cost of living.

Is Texas expensive for international students?

The average tuition and fees at public colleges for nonresident undergraduates in Texas is less than the national average. Additionally, while the average tuition for public colleges is slightly higher than states like Arkansas, Florida, and Missouri, Texas offers lower rates than many other states, including California, Michigan, and Vermont.

The cost for international students in Texas also varies significantly, depending on the school and its location. Some public colleges in small towns offer reduced tuition rates and a lower cost of living. For example, the cost of living in Lubbock, Texas, is lower than the national average, according to Payscale.

What are the best colleges for international students in Texas?

The best colleges vary depending on students' academic and life experience goals. Texas is a large state with over 140 colleges and universities. Some of these schools are known for their engineering, technology, and agriculture programs, while others are nationally ranked research institutions.

Some of the colleges in Texas with the largest percentage of international students include Rice University, Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Dallas, and the University of Texas at Austin.

However, the best college for international students is the one that offers a program that ignites their passion and provides the activities and culture they enjoy.

What are the cheapest universities in Texas for international students?

Students can find many affordable colleges in Texas. Some of the cheapest universities in Texas for international students include the University of Houston-Downtown, the University of Houston-Victoria, Sam Houston State University, and Tarleton State University. Undergraduate tuition and fees at these schools can range from about $12,000-$22,000.

Remember that room and board at these institutions can add on another $10,000-$11,400. Additional cost considerations include insurance, books and supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses. In towns with a lower cost of living, students might reduce costs by rooming together in an apartment.

How do I get a student visa for Texas?

The F-1 visa is the most common visa issued to full-time college students in Texas. First, prospective students must apply to a SEVP-approved school and get accepted. Once accepted, the school issues an I-20 certificate of eligibility form.

Students schedule an interview at their country's U.S. embassy or consulate and take the 1-20 form, along with the nonimmigrant visa form DS-160, to the appointment. Additional documents include proof of sufficient funds to cover all educational and living expenses and their plan for returning to their home country after graduation. Applicants must also possess a valid passport.

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