Study in Washington D.C.

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Updated 2021-08-03 11:39

Located in the District of Columbia, Washington D.C. is the federal capital of the United States. Formerly perceived as an elder city, nowadays it has that youthful and vibrant halo. Discover everything you need to know before moving to D.C.

Why study in Washington D.C.?

Washington D.C. has plenty of assets and things to offer. Indeed, the city is home to the US federal government headquarters and has some of the most important and iconic cultural monuments in the United States: from the White House to the Capitol, and the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. held his famous "I have a dream" speech. Needless to say that Washington attracts many students in Political Science and International Business due to its international and political background.

Washington D.C. is not attached to any state. It is a cosmopolitan capital, wealthy of a great melting pot that keeps evolving and adapting.

Washington D.C. is currently home to nearly 75,000 foreigners, including Central Europeans (English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French) and Asian people (Chinese, Japanese, Indian). The fact that its population is quite young (on average 33 years old) makes D.C. an incredibly dynamic city, where mostly young people, business people, politicians, and students live.

If you are planning to continue your studies in the United States and you are ready to settle in D.C., here is the essential information to help prepare for your studies. Do not hesitate to pursue your search by asking your questions or sharing your experience on the Expat.com Washington D.C. forum.

Where to study in Washington D.C.?

The US capital has several universities ranked among the best in the United States, according to QS University Rankings. Many of these institutions also offer a privileged environment to study, thanks to a city filled with internationally renowned monuments, and where most of the museums are free to visit. Washington D.C. is the 63rd best student city in the world.

Georgetown University

Located in the historic district of Georgetown, this university is the oldest Jesuit and Catholic University of the United States, although it has always been governed independently of any belief or religious entity.

Elected as the 26th best university in the US and 230th in the world, Georgetown University takes pride in being the 11th best institution specialised in politics.

Many public figures and politicians such as former US President Bill Clinton, have graduated from Georgetown. The institution is also a major research hub, with $170 million dedicated to the research fund.

Georgetown University is home to over 3,300 international students (on both undergraduate and graduate levels) coming from more than 135 countries. Additionally, over 400 international scholars are teaching or doing research at the university.

Learn more about Georgetown University here.

George Washington University

Founded in 1821, George Washington University is one of the oldest universities in the United States.

George Washington University, named after the first US President, is internationally renowned thanks to its political activism, with no less than 450 active student organisations on its premises. Moreover, the University owns one of the country's best School of International Affairs.

In 2021, George Washington University ranked as the 45th best American University and 353rd best university in the world.

George Washington University counts over 4,000 international students from six continents and over 120 countries. The admission rate for George Washington University is 40.8%.

Find out more information about the university here.

American University

The American University, founded in 1893, is a broad-based university with eight different schools. Students who attend it are usually key players in student associations. In the early 2010s, the university was elected as "The most politically active school in the United States" three times in a row by The Princeton Review, surpassing his fellow George Washington University. Many politicians gave speeches to the American University students, as was the case for American presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter or, more notably, John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the early 1963s.

Out of its 14,000 students, more than 1,300 are from 130 foreign countries, making it an international and cosmopolitan university.

Find out more about the American University here.

Tuitions fees and scholarships in Washington D.C.

In the United States, the cost of one year of study varies according to institutions. Tuition fees are similar at the three universities mentioned above, with an average of $56,000 to complete one year at Georgetown University and George Washington University, compared to $49,000 for American University. These amounts take into account the annual enrollment and tuition fees.

American universities have figured out a scholarship system, which gives access to education to as many people as possible. The Merit Scholarship aims to provide financial help to students whose results are the most outstanding, while grants on social criteria are awarded to students with limited financial means.

If you need the scholarship to fund your studies, you need to make sure that the university you wish to attend offers those scholarships to international students which is not always the case. Moreover, note that none of the universities of Washington D.C. uses the 'need-blind admission' system, even if it is already set up in a handful of American institutions. This type of admission is an easy-going policy that allows the school not to consider an applicant's financial situation when deciding on entry. As this system is not set up in Washington D.C.'s universities, you will be less likely to be admitted to one of the city's universities if you need financial help.

At the American University, only the Merit Scholarship can be awarded to international students, and only during their first year. The scholarship on social criteria is aimed at American citizens only. Georgetown University offers limited numbers of scholarships on social criteria to its international students in their first year. On the contrary, the Merit Scholarship can be awarded to every student, including foreigners. Finally, George Washington University can provide up to $10,000 of financial help for its international students.

Grading system and courses in an American University

In America, school starts either in September or November, depending on the institution. Some of them also offer the possibility to begin in January, but this option is not always open to international students.

Like most of the world's universities, classes are conducted in small groups in a classroom or an auditorium. Final exams take place at the end of the semester, but in between, students have work assignments. Classes usually give the floor to students to share their opinions and communicate with each other.

Grades assigned by teachers are percentages, which are then converted into a letter from A to F, based on the US Grade Point Average (GPA) system, which serves as the overall average. Every homework is given a score between A and F. A is the highest score (4.33 points), and F is the lowest (0 points).

Diplomas in an American University

Be aware that there is no diploma equivalence between Europe and the United States, except if it involves an exchange program with a European university. If you start your higher education in the United States, you will be recommended to complete your degree until you graduate so it won't be a wasted year.

These are the following university degrees:

  • Associate's Degree (two years)
  • Bachelor's Degree (four years)
  • Master's Degree (six years)
  • PhD (up to ten years)

Students are considered undergraduate students until they complete their Bachelor's Degree, after which they become graduate students if they're doing a Masters program, and then postgraduate students when they begin their PhD.

Student visa and administrative procedures

Once you are accepted into the American university of your choice, you still need to take the necessary steps to obtain your student visa. Depending on your study program, you will either need an F1 visa, the most commonly granted to international students, or an M1 visa, usually aimed at students in technical fields.

The F1 visa is awarded to full-time students who plan to complete their entire cycle program at an American university. It expires only when the student has completed his university studies. The M1 visa is for students of vocational education, it is valid for one year, but can be renewed up to three times. The J1 visa is granted to exchange students while remaining enrolled in their home school. Note that whatever your visa, the administrative costs are at your expense and amount to an average of $300.

Before granting you a visa, the US embassy will call you for an interview to know more about your motivation. Be aware that the officer will seek to understand your intentions in the long term and will make sure that you do not plan on settling permanently in the United States at the end of your studies. The conversation will take place in English to check that your level is sufficient, as it must be proven by your TOEFL or IELTS score (required). If the visa is granted to you, it will be delivered within one week.

Working as a student in Washington D.C.

The F1 student visa gives you the right to work on campus from your first year if your university provides you with an acceptance letter. This will allow you to get your social security number, assigned by the government and mandatory for paid work on US soil. Please note that you can't work off-campus with the F1 visa, except with rare permission such as if a tight financial situation requires you to.

Students with an M1 visa are not allowed to work at all. On the other hand, it is possible to do an internship under some conditions. In this case, you must apply for a work permit from the US government.

And last but not least, health coverage is mandatory for all students in an American university, including foreigners. It can come from your home country if it covers you internationally, or you will have to get American health coverage. Contact your university for more information.

Living cost in Washington D.C.

Some extra expenses may be added to your university tuition and enrolment fees so make sure you have enough savings. The US capital is not a cheap city, and you should know that when it comes to daily expenses (shopping, transportation, eating out, leisure, etc.), the living cost here is higher than in Europe. On the other hand, gasoline and cars are cheaper, not to mention that as long as the USD rate remains lower than Euro, it represents a significant pro.

At the time of the bill, note that the tip is usually included, so 15% to 20% will be added. Please note that it is mandatory to tip in restaurants in the US, and not doing so will result in the waiter calling you out. However, even if you are on a tight budget, it is possible to enjoy Washington D.C. thanks to many discounts available with a student card. Museums, cinemas, theatres, food, shopping'Š it is up to you!

Student housing in Washington D.C

Like in most American universities, living on campus is always a great idea, especially for an undergraduate student discovering university life. Regardless of which university you study at, it will usually offer on-campus housing for first-year and international students.

In fact, international students have reserved floors in some universities residences. For instance, Georgetown University has an International House Residence which offers accommodations for one or two students, private bathroom included. It is up to international students to prepare and complete the accommodation process.

As soon as you have your hands on your acceptance letter, you have to log into the university website with the provided personal login, to fill in your accommodation application.

Good to know:

The sooner you submit your application, the more likely you are to get the room or apartment of your choice on campus. Bear in mind that these places are limited and there are a lot of requests.

If you can not or do not want to live on campus, there are always other fellow students renting studios or share flats in downtown Washington DC. Georgetown University provides a guide of useful information on life and accommodation off-campus. The neighbourhoods of Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, and Adams Morgan are particularly dynamic and acclaimed by students. The average rent for an apartment in Washington D.C is $2,056.

For tighter budgets, the small towns of Arlington and Alexandria, both in the state of Virginia but only a few subway stations away from central D.C., are also popular with students. Both located on the other side of the Potomac River, they offer a more peaceful life.

Student life in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. has an outstanding cultural and historical background. It is home to some of the country's most iconic landmarks, such as the Capitol and the White House. In D.C., most museums are free, so those on a small budget can take advantage of what D.C. has to offer, culturally speaking. From the National Gallery of Art to the Newseum and Phillips Collection, they all attract visitors from all over the world!

Not only does D.C. define itself as a hub for International Business and Culture and Art, but it is also now recognised for being a popular destination that attracts people from all over the world.

Tourists traveling to this city can either discover and explore around or sip a cocktail in favourite bars and venture to the city's Michelin-starred restaurants since the famous Michelin Guide has added Washington to its top destinations in 2016.

A few blocks away from downtown Washington D.C, in the city of Arlington in Virginia, you can find the Pentagon, the famous headquarters of the Department of Defense. Also, Baltimore is only an hour away, and the beautiful bay of Chesapeake attracts the Washingtonians who seek stillness and nature.

Useful links:

International Student - Website for anyone studying or wishing to explore in Washington D.C.

Scholarships - Useful information about American university admission fees, tuition fees and awards. The 'Washington D.C.' section will give you essential information about Washington's universities.

Study in the USA - Website that provides essential information about studying in the United States and the steps you can take to prepare your stay.

Housing in Washington D.C. - Compare Washington D.C. rental prices by neighbourhood and type of accommodation.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.