4 top US universities for international students

best universities in the us
These are the best universities in the US for international students to consider. Source: Justin Sullivan/AFP

The best universities are ones that shine across research, academia, and career opportunities — and many of them are located in the US. It’s this that has attracted more than one million international students to its shores, with this figure steadily climbing as the years pass by. 

Of course, such high standards hardly go unnoticed, placing the best universities in the US among some of the most prestigious global rankings.

Such rankings are important to students. They are a direct measure of a university’s global reputation. Everyone from future employers to your fellow peers will recognise certain institutions, which can then open doors when it comes to your future career. More than that, a top-ranked university often has established partnerships with well-regarded companies, giving you opportunities to land internships or placements well before you graduate.

A graduate from Harvard University, one of the top institutions in the US, poses with her family. Source: Allison Dinner/AFP

Best universities in the US for international students

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

When it comes to recognisable names in higher education, MIT often lands the top spot. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this university is renowned the world over for its highly-rated programmes in engineering and the physical sciences, as well as economics, political science, urban studies, philosophy, and more. 

On league tables, MIT is often #1. It is currently ranked #1 by QS World University Rankings and #2 by US News and World Report

International students should note that MIT is also one of the most expensive universities to attend in the world. For the 2022-23 academic year, the university is charging tuition fees of US$57,590 and $11,980 for on-campus accommodation — and that’s excluding meals, textbooks and other living costs. In total, students should expect to pay around $79,850 per year. 

Princeton University

Part of the prestigious Ivy League, Princeton is another solid choice for international students. It is one of the best universities in the US to study engineering and international affairs, among other subjects. According to US News and World Report, Princeton’s undergraduate programme is unique in that it requires students to write a senior thesis or take up an independent project.

More than that, Princeton has educated some of the most important public figures in American and international history. This includes former US President Woodrow Wilson, former First Lady Michelle Obama, and founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos. 

Princeton is currently ranked #1 by US News and World Report. International students should be aware that it has a notably low acceptance rate of only 4%, making it notoriously difficult to land a spot. 

International students can expect to pay around US$57,410 per year for tuition and US$10,960 for accommodation. 

Princeton University is home to some of the most talented students in the world. Source: William Thomas Cain/AFP

Harvard University 

It’s no secret that Harvard is one of the best universities in the US. It is home to the nation’s best schools for biology, political science, and many other disciplines. Recently, it reported a record-low acceptance rate of only 3.19% — making it one of the hardest universities in the US to land an offer. 

Still, those who do manage to get into Harvard often find it worth it. The institution employs a liberal arts and sciences philosophy in more than 3,700 courses, helping students think critically, analytically and creatively across their programmes. Notable alumni include Mark Zuckerberg, Natalie Portman, and John F. Kennedy. 

International students can expect to pay around US$54,768 per year for tuition alongside US$5,384 for health insurance. 

Stanford University 

Stanford offers programmes such as law, medicine, engineering, education, sustainability and environment, as well as popular liberal arts subjects. Famous Stanford graduates include WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, Britain’s ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, GPS inventor Brad Parkinson, as well as Supreme Court Justices and Nobel Prize winners.

The research university — located in California — is just as selective as its Ivy League counterparts. Studies show that the university’s acceptance rate stands at a low 4%. Half the number of applicants to Stanford have outstanding credentials, boasting SAT scores between 1470 and 1570 or an ACT score of 34 and 35. 

For international students, tuition, boarding and other expenses will amount to around US$82,162 per year.