Prepare to Study in the U.S.

You've got a big future. Resources to help you create your path to university

beginning of content:

Study in the United States

There are thousands of universities in the world that welcome applications from international students. The process of applying to university can take about two years, so it's important to plan ahead.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a university to apply to. The College Board's Big Future website lets you search for universities and make a list of your favorites. With Big Future you can:

  • Search for and compare universities based on degrees offered, academic majors and programs, campus size, and location.
  • Get advice from admission professionals on how to prepare for and get into university.
  • Plan for university costs and search for international financial aid.
  • Watch and share videos from students like you, navigating the application and admission process.

Advanced Placement Program® (AP®)

The AP program offers university-level courses and exams where you can earn college credit or placement while still in secondary school. It’s recognized by most colleges and universities in the U.S. and in more than 60 countries worldwide. Institutions in the U.S. give credit and/or placement for qualifying AP Exam scores of 3, 4, or 5. This could allow you to skip some first-year university courses.

Policies vary by institution, so you should obtain the AP policy in writing.

AP Abroad

More than 1,000 schools in 116 countries outside the United States participate in the AP Program. If you are a student in India or China, there are some key distinctions in how AP is offered in your country. Learn more.

Taking the SAT

Most four-year universities and colleges require students like you to take an admission test, such as the SAT or SAT Subject Tests. Each university will list the admission requirements on their website, including required admission tests. Here are three steps you can take to get ready for the SAT:

  1. Learn more about the SAT and SAT Subject test dates and required fees for international students.
  2. Register for the SAT. You will need to create an account to complete registration. Tip: make sure you use your name as it appears on your photo identification and register early to secure your seat.
  3. Practice for the test using free study materials and get official SAT practice from Khan Academy.

PSAT-related Assessments

The best practice for the SAT is the PSAT 8/9, PSAT/NMSQT®, and PSAT 10. These tests measure the same skills and knowledge as the SAT, and you can connect your scores to free practice resources at Khan Academy. Talk with your teacher or counselor to find out more about how these tests can help you prepare for the SAT.

8 Steps to Studying in the U.S.

Applying to university as an international student doesn't have to be confusing. Although there are many parts to a university application, we can help guide you through the process of applying to U.S. universities.

Two Years Before University

Step 1: Explore universities
Consider the school's location, cost, academic programs and majors, and campus life so that you can narrow the list of universities to which you want to apply. Research 3,800+ U.S. universities on

Step 2: Take the SAT
U.S. universities look at many factors when making admission decisions, including your SAT score. Many students also take SAT Subject Tests to spotlight their skills in specific subjects.

Tip: When you register for the SAT, sign up for College Board's Search Service. You'll receive mail from universities looking for students just like you.

Step 3: Research admission requirements
U.S. universities look at several factors, including recommendation letters, when making admission decisions. Most require an English language proficiency exam, like the TOEFL or IELTS.

A word about English proficiency assessments

Most colleges and universities require proof of English language proficiency if your first language is not English and if your education was not in English. This proof can be provided by taking an English language proficiency test such as the TOEFL or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) tests.

One Year Before University

Step 4: Make a financial plan
Figure out tuition costs and living expenses before applying. Learn about college costs at Big Future.

Tip: Most students take the SAT twice. Practice at Khan Academy to improve your score.

Step 5: Assemble your applications
Every part of an application is important, including essays. Take time to check that everything is filled out before submitting.

Step 6: Apply
Submit your applications. One of the easiest ways to apply to multiple universities is through a service such as Universal College Application, Coalition Application, or Common Application. Learn more about these services on BigFuture.

Step 7: Make your decision

Step 8: Fulfill visa or passport requirements

U.S. Visa Requirements: Learn more about the student visa requirements and how to apply.