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The Best U.S. States to Study in as an International Student

When considering which U.S. state is the best for international students, there are several factors to consider depending on your priorities.

The first of which is the most obvious; which states offer the best quality of post-secondary education? The second variable is whether or not there is a significant population of foreign students in a particular state. The final question is the cost of living in the state you wish to consider.

This article will outline how to navigate these concerns and make recommendations about the top states to consider when planning to study in the United States. The financial technology company, Smart Asset, is a leading provider of personal advice for major life decisions, primarily based on financial considerations. They conducted an analytical study of the 2017 academic year in order to determine which U.S. states produce the highest quality of post-secondary education.

Their analysis used metrics such as graduation rate, average tuition price and the ratio of students to faculty to produce a ranking of U.S. states by the quality of the educational opportunities they provide.


Below is their ranking of the top ten states to consider when pursuing higher education in the U.S.:

  1. Virginia
  2. California
  3. Delaware
  4. Iowa
  5. New Jersey
  6. North Carolina
  7. Wyoming
  8. Vermont
  9. Indiana
  10. New York

When a state plays host to a large number of foreign students, this is a decent indication that not only are universities and colleges in this state well-equipped to support foreign students, but those international students moving there will have a good chance of finding a community of their patriots. This type of support can be crucial for adjusting to day-to-day life in a new country.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are ten states which account for 63% of all foreign students in the United States.

These states are listed here:

  1. California
  2. New York
  3. Texas
  4. Massachusetts
  5. Pennsylvania
  6. Illinois
  7. Florida
  8. Ohio
  9. Michigan
  10. Washington

The final consideration when determining which U.S. state to study it is the cost of living. In order to study in the United States, you will need to enter the country with an F1 visa.

In order to qualify in the application process for this visa, you will need to prove that you have the financial resources required to cover the expense of your studies and living costs while you are in the United States.

There are a few options to pursue legal employment opportunities while holding this visa, such as part-time work on campus while a semester is in session or full-time work while studies are in recess.

However, the approval requirements to do so are fairly strict; there is both a lengthy, complex approval process and a requirement that you have already been enrolled in an American educational institution for at least nine months before you can apply. Therefore, it is very important to select a state that it is affordable to live in.

Below is a list of the ten U.S states with the lowest cost of living index, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Arkansas
  4. Missouri
  5. Michigan
  6. Alabama
  7. Tennessee
  8. Kansas
  9. Indiana
  10. Wyoming

To make sense of these lists and the considerations they represent, the primary question to ask when considering which are the best U.S. states to study it is, “what educational experience are you searching for?” Below are recommendations of the best U.S. states for foreign students based on these priorities.

Money is no Option/I Want the Best Education Possible:

California and New York

If you are looking for the best possible experience and education but are not restricted by financial concerns, then the two states you should consider to study in are California and New York.

These states feature on both top ten lists for quality of education and number of foreign students. By choosing one of these states, you will be sure to get a top-rate education and have a great American college or university experience.

I Want an Education that is the Best Value for My Money:

Indiana and Wyoming

If you want the best possible education you can afford, the two best states to consider are Indiana and Wyoming. Both of these states are represented on the list for the highest quality of education and the lowest cost of living index.

By choosing one of these states, you’ll be sure to get the best value for the money you have to finance your education in the United States.

I Just Want to Complete an American Degree:


If your only priority is to get through your education and hold a degree from an American college or university, the best state to study in is Michigan. This state can be found on both the list for the highest number of foreign students and the lowest cost of living index.

By choosing to study in Michigan, you will have the most likely chance of successfully completing your degree without having to drop out due to a failure to adjust or financial concerns.

Clearly, the choice of which U.S. state to study it is a nuanced decision. With so many states to choose from, it is difficult to parse the information and determine what is the best choice for you. By determining what it is that you hope to gain from your experience, you can narrow down your choices considerably.

In order to apply for your F1 visa to study in the United States, you must first have your acceptance in an American post-secondary institution. Consider using this guide when making your applications in preparation for this processor conducting your research.

It may just make the difference between getting exactly what you want from your experience or finding yourself in a situation wherein your goals are unachievable.