What attracts international students to U.S. universities?

Resources, variety, and flexibility. Of the 50 wealthiest universities in the world, 44 are located in the U.S. The size of an institution’s endowment impacts every aspect of student life, from the quality of facilities, such as laboratories and dormitories, to the amount of aid available for scholarships and research. Michael Bloomberg, an alumnus of Johns Hopkins University, has donated in excess of $1.5 billion to his alma mater—a sum greater than the total individual endowments of the wealthiest universities in Canada and Australia.

There are over 3,000 institutions of higher learning in the U.S., ranging from liberal arts universities to large state universities, and stu­dents do not declare their ‘major’, their intended course of study, until the end of their second undergraduate year.

Are there scholarships available for international students?

Parents are often surprised to discover that American universi­ties offer significant need-based aid and merit scholarships to international students. Princeton University, for example, offers aid to all students—regardless of nationality—whose annual family in­comes are below $200,000. Students whose families earn less than $65,000 a year pay nothing to attend Harvard. At many less selective universities, merit aid is available to students that can cover up to the full cost of attendance, including tuition, accommodation and books. Although American universities are expensive, a student will not know the true cost of education until they are accepted and in­formed of any scholarships that they have received.

When should students start preparing for undergraduate university admission?

With today’s increasingly competitive university admissions process, students and families should begin preparation as early as possible, as admissions officers will assess all four years of candidates’ high school academic and extracurricular records. Ideally, students will start thinking about the process and preparing the summer before high school. Starting early is necessary to boost a student’s emotional, social and leadership intelligence, as they need time to realise their full potential and learn more about themselves in the process.

How competitive is it to get into the top schools?

The most competitive universities in the U.S. have acceptance rates that range from ap­proximately 4% to 10%. Harvard has more high school valedictorians apply every year than it has spaces for in its freshman class, while the acceptance rate for international undergraduate applicants to MIT is 2%. Students must be realistic when putting to­gether a university list, to ensure that it is bal­anced and based on the right fit rather than arbitrary rankings that try to quantify quali­tative university factors.

Peter Davos is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, the London School of Economics, UCLA, Oxford University and Harvard University. Hale Education Group has helped hundreds of students gain acceptance to more than 150 American universities and secure more than AED100 million in scholarships.

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