How Successful Are International Students Studying in the USA?

The USA is the country of choice for international students more than any other.

The Institute of International Education (IIE) 2022 Open Doors Report states that nearly one million foreign students attended American colleges and universities, accounting for 4.7% of all college students in the US.

Approximately 60–65% of international students who earn degrees in the US stay for employment opportunities.

Depending on your major, that could mean one to three years of potential paid employment in your field of study for F-1 student visa holders. The OPT acronym stands for Optional Practical Training. For each degree level (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral) you complete in the US, you are eligible for three years of OPT if you declare a STEM major. Over 20% of the one million or more international students studying in the US during the 2018–19 academic year were on OPT.

According to World Education Services’ 2022 international student satisfaction survey, 89% of recent alumni and 92% of current international students think their US education was a good investment. Additionally, 85% of students and 88% of alumni are optimistic about their career prospects.

Terminology for the US Educational System:

  • A glossary for US colleges and universities .The measurement of a student’s progress toward graduation is in academic credits. A typical bachelor’s degree course at the university level is three credits long. In order to receive a bachelor’s degree, students typically need to complete between 120 and 133 credits, or 40 to 44 classes. 


  • The U.S. Department of Education recognizes six regional and numerous program-specific groups as accredited, allowing colleges to function as educational institutions.


  • The first academic degree that can be earned after secondary school is an associate’s degree. This two-year degree program combines a number of liberal arts classes with an academic focus in one area. Two-year community colleges are typically where associate degrees are completed.


  • A bachelor’s degree is typically a four-year degree earned at a postsecondary institution.


  • College is a type of post-secondary institution in the US. It can be a four-year academic institution or a two-year institution for either academic or vocational studies. The academic divisions within universities are sometimes referred to as colleges (for instance, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, etc.).


  •  A two-year postsecondary institution that primarily offers associate degree programs is referred to as a community college.


  • The highest academic level of study available in the United States is a doctoral degree, also known as a PhD (doctor of philosophy) or an EdD (doctor of education).


  • Students who have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field are eligible for doctoral programs. The duration of the program varies depending on whether or not students have a master’s degree prior to enrollment and how long it takes them to complete the required dissertation (between one and four years) after completing the coursework.


  • The grade point average (GPA) a student receives in their various college or university classes is considered their academic performance.


  • Students are typically graded in each course on a 4.0 scale, with 4 being high and 0 being low. A 4.0 GPA is equivalent to an A in the US educational system, while 3.0 is a B, 2.0 is a C, 1.0 is a D, and 0.0 is an F.


  • Graduate studies are academic courses that begin after a four-year undergraduate program is finished and typically result in master’s or doctoral degrees.


  • Studies in the humanities such as history, English literature, a foreign language, mathematics, social studies, and natural sciences are included in the liberal arts.


  • Colleges with a strong emphasis on humanities and social science education are referred to as liberal arts colleges.


  • Major: the primary area of study for undergraduate students. For international students, the term “course of study” is comparable to majors. The major accounts for anywhere between 33-50% of the total number of classes a student must take to graduate from US colleges and universities.


  •  A master’s degree is typically a one- to two-year graduate degree with a strong concentration in one academic field. Frequently, a master’s thesis or project is necessary.


  • Quarter: A variant of the academic calendar that divides the year into four 10-week segments, of which only three (fall, winter, and spring) are necessary.


  • School: a place with students in grades K–12; a US institution that educates students. As a subdivision of a university’s academic departments within colleges and universities (e.g., School of Engineering, School of Business), “schools” can be thought of as such. In slang, it can also be asked, “How many schools are you applying to?”


  •  A term in higher education is typically measured in a semester. In a typical academic year, colleges and universities have two semesters (fall and spring).
  • Each semester lasts approximately 16 weeks. For students who don’t start in the fall or who might want to or need to take additional courses to accelerate or stay on track with their academic programs, many universities also offer a summer semester.


  • State university: a four-year public institution that receives some of its funding from the state where it is located. Large student populations are typical of public state universities.


  • Transfer credits are credits for students who have already finished some academic work at another university and are now enrolled in a new university where they can apply those credits toward a degree program.


  • Fall, winter, and spring make up the three terms of the trimester, an academic calendar. The length of each trimester is 12 to 13 weeks.


  • After completing secondary school, students enroll in undergraduate studies, which are the first level of academic study. Associate’s and bachelor’s degrees can be earned after undergraduate study.


  • A university is a four-year post-secondary institution of learning. All post-secondary degree levels (associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate) are available through these institutions.

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