How many universities are now in the U.S.? What are the types of universities that exist? How do they admit prospective international students? Do they all offer room and board? What factors are taken into consideration to rank them? How much do they cost? These are just some examples of common questions that we have received from students over the last year; so we are guessing you have similar, if not the same questions.  We recommend each of our students spend some time on this page understanding what is behind universities. In the end, the more you know about this the easier it will be for you to choose the universities you would like to apply for. Now, let’s dive into the exciting world of universities in the U.S.

College of Fine Arts, Ball State University, Indiana

Arthur S. DeMoss Learning Center, University in Lynchburg, Virginia

Everglades Hall, Florida International University, Miami

Types and Number of Universities

There are currently more than 4.500 universities in the U.S. Over 1.500 are 2 year colleges (most commonly known as community colleges) and 4 year colleges or universities. Community colleges (public or private) offer 2 year programs (also known as associate degrees) in most cases at a very reasonable price. See price section below for further details. Also, they serve as a pathway to a four year degree being an excellent option for those students that are not sure if they want to spend four years to obtain a degree.  After completing the associate degree, the student can transfer to a four year program and transfer all the credits obtained in the associate degree leaving him with only the remaining two years to complete a bachelor’s degree. 4 year colleges or universities are what you are probably are most familiar with and what could be compared to a university in your home country. 

There were 19.9 million students attending a university in Fall 2018. If you divide this amount by the more than 4.500 universities in the country, it gives you an average of 4.500 students per universities.  However, there are big universities like Florida International University in Miami with more than 55.000 students enrolled in 2018 and St. John’s College in Maryland with less than 500 students in 2018. This can give you an overview of the many differences between the thousands of universities currently serving domestic (U.S.) and international students in the U.S.

There are currently more than 4.500 universities in the U.S. Over 1.500 are 2 year colleges (most commonly known as community colleges) and the rest (more than 2.500) are 4 year colleges or universities.

Are all universities private and have a religious affiliation?

Universities can be private and public.  Private universities account for approximately 60% of all universities while public account for the remaining 40%. Public universities are mostly funded by the taxes of the people that reside in the state where the university is located. This is why public universities are typically cheaper than private universities for students and families that are residents of the specific state. Private universities are funded through tuition, endowments and donations provided by private donors. Also, private universities are more prone to give scholarships to international students than public universities. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education there are thousands of universities that support one of more than 50 different religious affiliations.  Some of these religious affiliations can be Catholic, Jesuit, Jewish, Presbyterian, Islamic, Baptist, or Methodist.  Among universities that support a religious affiliation, there are religious colleges, which you can probably easily identify because they have some type of religious connotation in their name and non religious colleges, which account for the most.  For religious colleges, their religious values and faith are very important and greatly influence the rules and teaching approach. Most students that go to these religious colleges want to be professionally involved with the religion after graduation. For the rest, which account for the majority, the differences between a university that has a religious affiliation and one that does not in most cases cannot be noticed by most students. In other words, their religious affiliation does not affect the class curriculum. There might be some activities that are in line to the religious affiliation but students in most cases are not required to follow.

How do you know that a university has any type of religious affiliation and which degree? Most universities are very open about it and they disclose all the information about their religious affiliation in their website. Sections like “About us” or “Mission and Values” are good sources to find this type of information. Also, you can communicate to us if you have any preference in terms of religion and we can accommodate offering you only universities that adapt to your preference.

What programs and degrees do they offer?

The list of degrees (associate (community colleges), undergraduate or master’s) offered by universities in the U.S. are almost endless. We recommend you take a look at this page to learn more about the different types of degrees that they offer. Just remember, for those of you seeking to complete an associate, undergraduate, or master’s degree, you would need to choose at least a major to graduate. A minor is optional and there are ambitious students who decide to graduate with multiple majors and/or minors. Do you want to know more about the difference between major and minor

Also it is important that you get familiar with the name of each year of your four years in university.

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  • 2

  • 3

  • 4

  • 1

  • 2

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  • 1

    You will be called to be “freshman” during your first year. Sometimes you will hear the term “frosh” instead.
  • 2

    During your second year, you will be a “sophomore.” According to Merrian Webster’s dictionary, the word “sophomore” comes from the Greek term “sophos,” which means “wise” and the term “mōros,” which means “foolish.” So the words is meant to describe somebody confident because he believes is wise, but in reality is quite the opposite.
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    The third year of university you will be called a “junior”
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    The fourth and last year of your undergraduate degree, you are called “senior.”

There are no similar terms for when you are studying your master´s degree. You will just be a graduate student.

Do all universities offer the same academic calendar?

Most universities use one of the following two systems.

Types of calendar systems
  • Quick overview

    Quick overview
  • Explanation

  • % of total universitie

    % of total universitie
Semester system (most popular)
  • Quick overview

    The academic year is divided into two semesters of 16 to 18 weeks.
  • Explanation

    Fall semester (mid-August to mid-December) and Spring semester (mid-January to mid-May)Summer session (mid-June to early August) would be optional
  • % of total universitie

    ~70% of universities
Quarter system
  • Quick overview

    The academic year is divided into three or four quarters of 10-12 weeks.
  • Explanation

    Fall quarter (late September to early December)Winter quarter (early January to mid March)Spring quarter (early April to mid June).Summer session (early July to late August) would be optional
  • % of total universitie

    ~30% of universities

In general, universities are flexible in terms of when students can join the university.  So depending on your preferences or when you graduate in your home country, you may choose to start at the beginning of Fall or Spring semesters.  Normally Winter and Summer are not an option.

Most universities also offer students the possibility to take classes during Winter and Summer time so they can accelerate the time it takes to complete a degree. It is very normal for ambitious students to spend at least a Summer or Winter in the university taking classes and by doing that each year, they could shorten the completion of their undergraduate or master’s degree by at least 20% of the original estimated time. 

Do all universities have the same requirements to get international students admitted into their programs?

Each university has its own admission policy. There are some requirements that are very common for all the applicants (see here the common requirements for bachelor’s and here for master’s). Then, universities may have very specific requirements that could also change at any time. Normally, the higher ranking of the university, the higher the requirements.  For example, universities that are part of the top 100 or 200 ranking would require at least an SAT score of at least 1200 for an undergraduate program. When we present to you the different match universities in your customized listing, we will disclose to you the specific requirements for admission and scholarship/s, if any.

What are the universities deadlines?

Deadlines are very similar to what we just explained for requirements.  Each university has its own deadlines but there are some commonalities. In general, the higher the ranking and prestige of the university the early is the deadline.  Universities in the top 100 or 200 typically require you to apply at least 8 or 9 months prior to your arrival to the U.S. Universities below that top 100 or 200 vary but most of them would require you to apply at least 3 or 4 months prior to your arrival.  So if you are applying to one of these universities to start in Fall (mid-August), you may need to apply before mid-May for a regular university and before mid-December for a top 100 or 200 university.

Do universities offer room/housing and board/meals?

Most universities also offer Room and Board (rent housing and food respectively). This implies that you will be able to live and eat on-campus, everything within walking distance. No private transportation is needed in most cases. If the university does not offer this option, you can cover the expense of renting an apartment off campus yourself and buying and preparing your own meals. Universities that offer room and board typically have many options available. You could have your own room or share your room on campus or off-campus (through some of the properties owned by universities off campus).  In terms of food, you could choose the meal plan that would work best for you (e.g. unlimited/all you can eat, selective meals, etc.).  

Universities know that not everyone can afford their cost of attendance. Thus, most of them offer attractive scholarships to make this cost affordable and that way being able to recruit qualified students from all over the world.

How much is the cost and do all universities offer scholarships to international students?

Universities know that not everyone can afford their high gross cost of attendance. We recommend you review this page to learn more about the University cost of attendance. Because of this high gross cost of attendance, universities (especially private) offer attractive scholarships to make the university cost of attendance affordable and that way being able to recruit qualified students. Universities usually offer different numbers and amounts of scholarships depending on the season and the profiles of the students they are trying to recruit. Scholarships can be academic and athletic.  Students with good academic background and meeting all academic requirements are eligible to obtain academic scholarships. Students with a reasonable academic background and good athletic background are eligible to obtain athletic scholarships. Students that have both (i.e. good academic and athletic background) would be eligible for both and obtain a really nice scholarship offer (sometimes making the net cost of attendance below $10,000 or $5,000 per year).

How can I reduce the cost of attendance?

There are many things you can do to reduce the cost of attendance.  For example, the better your academic and/or athletic background (as stated above), the higher the scholarship you will obtain and the lower the net cost you will have to pay the university to attend. Your willingness to work on campus and live off campus will also help you alleviate the cost of attendance.  Click here to find more information about tips to reduce your cost of attendance.

How are universities ranked?

Rankings are used to measure the reputation of the universities, not only in the U.S., but around the world.  There are many rankings out there and depending on the one that you use and the degree that you would like to do, one university may rank differently.  Our favorite rankings are prepared by U.S. News and Niche.