Updated 4 months ago

International students from around the world dream of studying in a vibrant, cosmopolitan and ultra-efficient city, such as New York. provides you with a useful guide if you wish to study in the Big Apple.

A leader in various fields

The Big Apple has been attracting thousands of students from across the globe, regardless of their field of study. Specialising in culture, finance, medicine and architecture, among many others, New York is the ideal place to be for furtherr education. Given its popularity, New York is also an expensive place for international students. As a result, anyone looking to study in the city should bear in mind the cost of living in New York; planning a budget and paying attention to daily expenses will help. You might not have a job, but a scholarship can definitely help.

More and more international students

The number of international students enrolled in US universities and schools has increased by 40% over the past 10 years. According to the Migration Policy website, New York welcomes on its own 11% of the total number of international students in the US. Most of them come from China, South Korea, India, Canada, as well as Europe.

A continuous culture shock

If you're moving to New York for the first time, you will probably need a couple of weeks to adapt. Life in New York can be quite different from what you're used to in your home country. Other than the long haul flight separating the city from from Europe and the rest of the world, you might be surprised by the number of expatriates living in New York - a third of its inhabitants were born overseas. Like many major cities, New York can be described as a cultural melting pot. If you're moving there, get ready to join a fast-paced, contemporary world.

World famous universities

New York is home to around one hundred universities and internationals schools. Three of its universities rank among the top 130 universities worldwide, according to QS Top Universities report 2016-2017. Columbia University, New York University and Cornell University are world famous not only for their academic excellence, but also for their impressive international student population.

Columbia University

Columbia University was founded in 1754 – even before Independence – and is a member of the Ivy League, which includes the 8 oldest universities in the US. It's worth noting that these are not only excellent schools, but also the most selective US universities that only accept the best students. Now 20th in the QS University Rankings, its yearly intake amounted to 6% in 2016. Twenty four per cent of its 31,300 students come from abroad. International students who wish to enroll in Columbia University have to pass English standard tests such as the TOEFL or the IELTS.

Columbia University specialises in science (anatomy and physiology), engineering, literature and foreign languages. Eighty two former students are also Nobel Prize winners in the field of science. The university consists of twenty faculties offering over eighty programs.

New York University

New York University (NYU) was founded in 1831 by Albert Gallatin who was also the Secretary of the Treasury under President Jefferson. His vision was to make the university as vibrant and dynamic as New York City. It's international student population accounted for 20% of its total in 2016, that is around 53,700 students.

NYU specialised in arts, human and social sciences and management. It has also earned its fame from international quality research, thus ranking 47th in the QS University Rankings 2016-2017. Many of its students have made significant contributions to society and been awarded various prizes, from Nobel Prizes to Oscars. Among them are the famous film producer Woody Allen, the current mayor Bill De Blasio, and pop singer Lady Gaga.

Cornell University

Cornell University's main campus is found in Ithaca, in New York State. However, it also has a branch campus in the heart of Manhattan. Founded in 1865, it is deemed to be one of the best private universities in North America – and in the world. In fact, it ranks 16th in the QS University Rankings 2016-2017 among a total of 130 universities. Cornell University is also a member of the Ivy League along with Harvard and Columbia University. The campus comprises 17% of international students.

Cornell University stands out in the fields of engineering, management, law as well as veterinary studies. Sandy Berger, who acted as the National Security Advisor under former President Bill Clinton, and Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, were Cornell University students.

Courses and degrees

The school year generally starts between September 1 and November 1, depending on the university. In some cases, it can even start in January, but this does not apply to international students. In spite of being quite costly, the US has a very efficient higher education system with highly recognised degrees.

The US marking system is quite different from that of many countries. The Grade Point Average (GPA) refers to the general average. Each assignment is assigned a grade, ranging from A to F – which is equivalent to a grade value. For instance, 4.33 points is the threshold for the best grade and is equivalent to A while 0 is equivalent to an F.

In all cases, you're advised to complete you degree course till graduation so that you won't lose a whole year.

Scholarships in New York

As mentioned previously, US universities are quite costly. Students often have to take loans over several years if they want to study in the best universities. It costs around US$ 10,000 a year to study in one of the cheapest universities. To enroll in one of the most prestigious ones, you may need over US$ 50,000. According to Top Universities, the average cost was around US$ 33,215 per year.

If you don't have the financial means to enroll, you could perhaps apply for a scholarship – even international students are entitled to scholarships in the US. Scholarships are generally granted according to merit or social criteria. You can be eligible to any of these when joining as a freshman (first year student). Make sure, however, to inquire whether the university you wish to join does provide scholarships for international students.

Both New York University and Cornell University provide social scholarships to international students. However, New York University is the only one to grant merit scholarships for international students, which allows them to benefit from financial aid for part of their studies. If you're not joining as a freshman, check with your university whether you are entitled to a transfer scholarship.

Procedures and student visa

International students are usually entitled to the F1 visa, for which you may be eligible once you have enrolled in a US university. The application for the visa has to be made at the US embassy in your home country. Fees of around US$ 300 apply. You may be called for an interview by the US embassy before the visa is issued. The immigration officer will want to know your real and long term motivation behind moving to the US. He will also want to know whether you are planning to settle down there. Remember that the interview will be conducted in English, so make sure you have a good command of it by passing either the TOEFL or the IELTS. If the interview is deemed satisfactory, your visa will be issued within a week.

Besides the F1 visa, international students may also apply for the J1 or M1, though these are less common. While the first is intended for international students taking part in an exchange program (where an equivalence agreement exists between the two universities), the second applies only to professional or specialised courses, and has stricter conditions than the F1 visa.

Working on the campus

International students holding the F1 visa are allowed to work on the university campus during the first year with their university's approval. Your activity will depend on the agreement signed between your university and employer, who also have to issue an acceptance letter for you to apply for a social security number. It's quite easy for international students to find a job on campus. However, it may be difficult to find a job outside the campus as you need to prove that you're facing a financial crisis to seek employment externally.

Health insurance

Subscribing to a health insurance is compulsory for all international students enrolled in a US university. You have to prove that you have adequate coverage for the whole duration of your stay, which is fair enough given the high cost of health care in the US. Universities also provide health insurance to international students, though it may not be the best option. Make sure to seek all necessary information before subscribing. You may prefer to purchase to health insurance before moving to the US, though this is unlikely to affect the cost.

Student accommodation in New York

As you may have understood by now, everything is expensive in New York – even accommodation. Most international students prefer flat-sharing, which not only is cheaper, but also helps them meet new people. Those looking for accommodation will want to find a house or flat close to campus. Renting a room will likely cost US$ 600 to US$ 1,000 per month. Greenwich Village and Soho (located in Southern Manhattan) and Williamsburg (in West Brooklyn), are the most popular neighbourhoods for international students in New York.

Most universities in New York, such as NYU, Cornell and Columbia, also provide on campus accommodation to students. However, if you want to stay on campus, make sure to request accommodation upon enrollment, as there are a limited number of rooms.

The city that never sleeps

New York has been attracting students from all around the world thanks to its cosmopolitan environment and its diverse cultural offerings, regardless of the season. During your free time, you may want to visit its world-famous museums such as the MoMA Modern Art Museum, the Metropolitan history museum, the Guggenheim museum or the Natural History Museum.

New York also hosts a number of festivals, concerts and many other art events that take place every week, especially in summer. For more information about cultural and art events, refer to Timeout. If you want to explore the city, why not rent a bike to travel around Central Park or even Soho, Greenwich Village or Bushwick in Brooklyn. Bushwick is the place to be if you want to discover street art at its best.

Foodies will also be delighted to discover a wide range of cuisines from all around the world – modern American, authentic Asian or spicy Mexican! New Yorkers also like brunches and never miss an opportunity to go out to their favourite spot. While its bagels are world famous, you will also find hot dog stands at every street corner at any time of the day.

 Useful links:

Top Universities
Study Abroad

Content written by Vanessa Richard

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