Why are these the top 5 universities for international students in the US?
Founded in 1745, Princeton University is ranked the top university for international students in the US. Source: Shutterstock

When it comes to having the most world-class universities, America wins hands-down. The global superpower’s universities dominate global education rankings, contribute stellar scientific research, win most of the world’s Nobel prizes and produce graduates who earn more and perform better than their peers without a college degree.

While these are great barometers for anyone deciding which university they’d like to attend, things are a little different for international students. For many reasons, cultural or otherwise, what makes a university great for an American may not be the same for a student from China.

Which is why rankings like US News’ recently published Top Universities for International Students are so important, shedding light on indicators more relevant to international students.

This time around its methodology is based on the top 230 national universities which were numerically ranked in its 2018 Best Colleges rankings.

It then assessed these schools based on these following six indicators:

  • Graduation rate for international students: this rate needed to be greater than or equal to the average  among all ranked national universities;
  • First-year retention rate for international students: this rate needed to be greater than or equal to the average rate among all ranked national universities;
  • English as a Second Language: school must have these programs or classes as a special service to international students;
  • International student organisations: schools must have these;
  • Financial aid: need-based or non-need-based grant aid must be offered by the schools to international students
  • Facilities: the school must offer some or all of the following 11 factors to international students, such as English labs; special counselors/advisers; host family programme; housing and dining during holidays;  international student orientations; TOEFL and/or IELTS accepted in place of ACT or SAT; and conditional admission.

For a full explanation of its methodology, visit this page.

Based on these gauges, the ranking body found 181 national US universities to have successfully supported international students during the 2016-2017 academic year.

Out of these 181 schools, we list the top five based on their positions on US News’ Best Colleges ranking and why international students should consider these institutions:

1. Princeton University

Best Colleges ranking: 1

The newspaper Reader Sculpture on campus of Princeton University. Source: Shutterstock

Founded in 1746, this Ivy League institution ranks top in US News’ league table for National Universities, on top of Best Undergraduate Teaching and Best Value Schools. Over the last five years, it’s seen a 21 percent overall growth in international student, undergraduate and graduate enrollment. The top five countries of origin are, in this order: China, Canada, India, United Kingdom and South Korea.

The school offers financial aid to international students . As long as you can gain admission, getting financial aid should be easy. According to its website, fthere are various funding schemes open to master’s candidates (though this varies by department), while funding is guaranteed for regularly enrolled, degree-seeking Ph.D. candidates for all years of regular program enrollment (contingent upon satisfactory academic performance).

2. Yale University

Best Colleges ranking: 2

The private research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Source: Shutterstock

Yale is made up of the College itself, plus the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and 12 professional schools, such as the top-ranked Law School and highly ranked School of Management, School of Medicine, School of Art and School of Nursing. It’s one of the most prestigious schools in the country and the campus isn’t too shabby either (check out these neo-Gothic designs).

Getting in can be quite the ordeal with its six percent admission rate. The upside for international students is Yale’s admission officers promise the thorough consideration your application deserves, even if you do not fit its standard bill.

As for international student support, Stefano Malfitano, a student from a small village in northern Italy attests:

“Yale understands the needs and problems that international students might have – and acts accordingly. There is a variety of different resources available while I study at Yale: freshmen counsellors, international peer liaisons, the masters and deans of our residential colleges, minorities representatives, the Office for International Students and Scholars, and I am sure half a dozen more entities throughout campus.”

3. Columbia University

Best Colleges ranking: 5 (tie)

The private Ivy League research university is located in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Source: Shutterstock

Founded in 1754, the private institution now has a total undergraduate enrollment of 6,113 who come from more than 100 countries. Hosting the fourth-largest international student population of any US university, it also offers more than 50 foreign language courses.

Columbia’s renowned alumni include many movers and shakers around the world, such as Pixley ka Isaka Seme, founder of the African National Congress; VK Wellington Koo, Chinese diplomat; and Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia.

Its faculty also boasts a range of high profile names such as Tsung Dao Lee, a Physics Professor and Nobel Laureate who has taught in Columbia his entire life and Gayatri Spivak, a Professor of English Literature and founder of the influential post-colonialism theory of literature.

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Best Colleges ranking: 5 (tie)

MIT campus in the fall season with locals and students passing by on November 10, 2014. Source: Shutterstock

MIT is globally-acclaimed for its scientific and technological research. Its research expenditures have exceeded $700 million a year, with funding from US government agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense. Their international cohort comes from 116 countries, making up approximately 9 percent of undergraduates and 40 percent of graduate students.

Competition to get into MIT is, unsurprisingly, tough. Every year, MIT admits fewer than 150 out of the more than 4,000 international applications it receives. The school, however, makes up for it in terms of financial aid granted. According to its website, the small number of international student enrollments is due to its generous financial aid contributions:

“MIT is one of the few schools in the US that offers need-blind admissions and meets their full financial need. “Need-blind” means you will not be disadvantaged in the admissions process because of your financial need. “Meeting your full financial need” means MIT will give you enough financial aid so that you can afford to attend, no matter how much or how little your family can pay.”

5. Stanford University

Best Colleges ranking: 5 (tie)

Memorial Church at Stanford University. Source: Shutterstock

The alma mater of Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Google CEO Sundar Pichai is known for being the launching pad for many successful start-ups. Within its Class of 2021, international students make up 11 percent of the student body with 1,700 students altogether. More than 70 languages are spoken on Stanford’s campus.

Astrid Casimire, a human biology major, said despite the fast pace and competition at Stanford, he’s always been helped by the resources there, such as the Bechtel International Center.

“During my first days on campus, I remember noticing how helpful everyone was; there were RAs, academic advisors and upperclass students everywhere, ready to lend a hand and welcome me, and that really meant a lot. Then there’s the International Undergraduate Community, which hosts events
like food festivals and field trips. To this day, our trip to Six Flags remains one of my favorite Stanford memories!”

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