International Students in the United States

Updated January 31, 2023

Find the most popular U.S. universities and colleges for international students and learn what it will take to earn your degree. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Well known Universities for International Students

For institutions of higher learning in the United States two records were set in the academic year 2012-13. First, more international students came to study in the United States than ever before. Over 819K (819,644) international students were enrolled -- an increase of about 7% (55,000) from the previous year (2011-12). This is approximately 40% more international students than for the academic year 10 years previous. [Ref: iie ]

Second, more American students went to study abroad: over 283K (283,332) - an increase of about 3%. This number has tripled over two decades, yet only 10% of American students study abroad while undergraduates.

International students only make up about 4% of total student enrollment (about 25M students) in the USA. However, they contributed $24B to the U.S. economy across all 50 states. International undergrads have outnumbered international grads for the last two academic years, thanks mostly to scholarship programs in countries sending the most students abroad. This changes the 12-year trend in which international grad students outnumbered international undergrad students.

Nearly half (49%) of all international students enrolled for 2012-13 came from China, India and South Korea -- even though numbers for the latter two declined from the 2011-12 academic year, down 4% and 2%, respectively. At the same time, 16 countries had an increase in 2012-13 over the previous academic year.

With this in mind, here is a list of the top 50 colleges and universities in the USA with the most international students.


International student enrollment figures are primarily from IIE (Institute of International Education) Open Doors report data on International Education Exchange covering the 2012-13 academic year for all institutions listed here. IIE data may not exactly match individual institution Web sites or their corresponding Wikipedia entries for listed universities.

Additional information in the IIE report is from NAFSA state economic impact statement reports for 2013.

Additional information for this list is from IIE leading institutions list

Numbers and percentages relating to student enrollment are for the 2012-13 academic year unless otherwise specifically marked.

Where readily available, the following information for each university or college is given: motto, freshman application acceptance rate for Fall 2012, total student enrollment for 2012.

The term "Public Ivy" refers to a higher-learning institution that is a publicly-funded research university and is considered to give the equivalent education of an Ivy League university at a public tuition cost. Some Public Ivies are private but have some sort of public funding component. The actual Ivy League universities are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Brown, and University of Pennsylvania -- all of which have been long-established. Not on this list: Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown.

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Top 50 Most Popular US Universities and Colleges for International Students

  1. University of Southern California

    Los Angeles, CA

    The University of Southern California was founded in 1880, on the land and money donations of Ozro Childs, John Gately Downey, and Isaias W. Hellman. While original it was sectarian, it severed formal church ties in 1952. It is the oldest private research university in California. USC has 21 schools and colleges, with nearly 40K students enrolled in the 2012-13 academic year. It offers nearly 250 majors and minors, including professional programs. Notable schools include the School of Cinematic Arts is the oldest and largest film school in the United States, offering degrees in six programs. Produce/ director George Lucas (Star Wars) donated $175M in 2006 for expansion of the film school. Notable milestones include that USC has the highest number of Olympic medals (287 = 135 gold, 87 silver, 65 bronze) of any university worldwide, as of 2012; that USC physicians serve over a million patients yearly; and that it has affiliations with 5 Nobel Prize winners.

  2. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Champaign, IL

    The University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign was founded in 1867, originally as Illinois Industrial University — classes started in Mar 1868. It is considered to be a "public Ivy league" school, giving a comparable education to Ivy league schools for a public school price. It is als considered to be a RU/VH very high-activity research university. UIUC is one of few universities in the U.S. with its own airport, Willard Airport, which is used for UIUC's Institute of Aviation research projects. It also hosts American Airlines flights. UIUC has 17 schools, colleges and institutes, including the Institute of Aviation. Notable milestones for faculty and alumni include 25 Nobel laureates, 22 Pulitzer Prize winners, several Olympic medalists, astronauts and scientists, leaders of international corporations.

  3. Purdue University

    West Lafayette, IN

    Purdue University was founded in 1869 is the flagship of the six-campus Purdue University system. It was established with a $150K donation from businessman John Purdue, plus other money and land donations. Its 10 schools and colleges offer over 200 undergrad majors, 70+ master's and doctoral programs, plus professional degrees in pharmacy and veterinary medicine. Notable milestones include being the first college to offer credit in flight training; offering the first four-year bachelor's in aviation; having the first university airport; having 15,000 U.S. patents. Notable alumni include 13 Nobel laureates, 23 astronauts (including Neil Armstrong) and Orville Redenbacher (of popcorn products fame).

  4. New York University

    New York, NY

    NYU was founded in 1831 by Albert Gallatin and Mordecai Manuel Noah, making it one of the world's oldest research universities. It is one of the largest private nonprofit institutions of higher learning in the United States and was elected to the Association of American Universities in 1950. It is located in six centers throughout parts of New York, and over a dozen sites elsewhere in the world. NYU has 20 schools, colleges and institutes, and campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. Notable milestones include that more American students study abroad coming from NYU than any other American university or college, according to IIE (Institute of International Education; and that international students search for "NYU" more than any other university, according to the College Board. Notable faculty and alumni milestones include winners of at least 36 Nobel Prizes, 16 Pulitzer Prizes, 30 Academy Awards and others.

  5. Columbia University

    New York, NY

    Columbia University was founded in 1754 and is New York state's oldest higher learning institution — and the fifth oldest in the United States. Columbia, an Ivy League school, is one of 14 founding members of the Association of American Universities, and is one of nine Colonial Colleges (founded before the American Revolution -1775-1783). It was originally founded by royal charter as King's College by George II of Great Britain. It was renamed Columbia in 1784 and currently has around 20 schools and colleges. Notable milestones include that it administers the Pulitzer Prize; has Columbia Global Centers in Amman, Beijing, Istanbul, Paris, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago and Nairobi; is affiliated (students, faculty, staff) with 101 Nobel laureates. Other notable alumni include five founding fathers of the United States (e.g., Alexander Hamilton); nine Supreme Court Justices (e.g., Ruth Bader Ginsburg), 43 Nobel laureates, 20 living billionaires (e.g., Warren Buffett); 28 Academy Award winners; Three U.S. presidents (Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Barack Obama); 29 heads of state. It is also the first school in the U.S. to award an M.D. degree.

  6. University of California - Los Angeles

    Los Angeles, CA

    The University of California was founded in 1882, with the UCLA campus establish in 1919. UCLA, considered to be a Public Ivy, joined the Association of American Universities in 1974. It is the third oldest campus of the U of California system and is one of the two flagship universities in the UC system — Berkeley is the other. UCLA was the most applied-to four-year university nationwide, with over 105K applications for Fall 2014. UCLA is divided into five undergrad colleges, seven professional schools, four professional health science schools. Notable milestones for faculty, researchers and alumni include 15 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholars, 1 Fields Medalist, 3 Turing Award winners, 52 current faculty elected to NAS (National Academy of Science), 26 to NAE (National Academy of Arts and Sciences), 39 to Institute of Medicine, 124 to American Academy of Arts and Sciences; 250 Olympic medals as of 2013 – 125 gold, 65 silver 60 bronze (#2 compared to Univ of Southern California LA). As well, UCLA athletes have competed in every Olympics since 1920 except 1924, and won gold in every Olympics that the U.S. has competed in since 1932. Amongst other honors, UCLA alumni and faculty helped created the Internet, and the campus was the first node in ARPANET – the predecessor of the Internet.

  7. Northwestern University

    Evanston, IL

    Northeastern University is an environmentally-aware institution that was founded in 1898. It is is a founding member of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment since 2007 — "a nationwide initiative to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions among institutions of higher learning." NU officially adopted a climate action strategy in 2010, and scored one of the highest ratings on the 2011 College Sustainability Report Card. It was cited in 2012 by Green Metric Ranking of World Universities as America's Greenest College. NU has 9 schools and colleges plus a program for undeclared students. Amongst international students, there has been 447% increase in their numbers between Fall 2006 and Fall 2013. NU has a co-op program and had nearly 8K co-op job placements in 2012-13 with around 3,000 employers worldwide. It has placed students in "experiential learning opportunities" in over 110 countries 2006-13. The university claims that 90% of grads from 2006-12 either gained full-time employment or "enrolled in grad school within nine months of graduation." As well, "51% of 2012 grads received a job offer from a previous co-op employer" and "87% of 2012 grads who are employed full time are doing work related to their major." Other notable milestones include over 1 million "community service hours performed by students since 2006;" and nearly 190 patents filed by students and faculty in 2012-13.

  8. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

    Ann Arbor, MI

    The University of Michigan started in 1817 in Detroit as the Catholepistemiad or University of Michigania, 20 years before Michigan became a state, and moved to Ann Arbor in 1837. It's the oldest university in the state of Michigan and has satellite campuses in Flint and Dearborn. It is a founding member of Association of American Universities and is considered an RU/VH very high research activity university. (Recent developments at UMich include the creation of see-through solar cells, which could potentially be used in windows and shades that generate electricity.) UMich has 19 schools and colleges which offer various undergrad programs. Its grad program "offers doctoral degrees in humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields, plus professional degrees in medicine, law, nursing, social work and dentistry." It also has dual-degree and certificate programs. UMich has a long list of notable alumni, which includes 26 Rhodes Scholars; late U.S. President Gerald Ford; former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt; one Detroit mayor and a governor; 19 billionaires including Google co-founder Larry Page; playwright Arthur Miller; journalist Mike Wallace; actor James Earl Jones (voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies); actress Lucy Liu, and many more. Singers Madonna and Iggy Pop were non-graduating students.

  9. Michigan State University

    East Lansing, MI

    Michigan State University was founded in 1855 as the first land-grant institution, and it served as the prototype for the Morrill Act of 1862, which gave land grants to each U.S. state in order to establish a state university system. Currently, the university has 5,200 acre campus, with 2,100 acres of existing or planned development. As well, it has access to just under 20K acres around the state for research and education in agricultural and natural resources. It is in fact the first U.S. institution of higher learning to teach scientific agriculture. MSU, which is considered to be a Public Ivy, has 3 campuses (including one in Dubai) and the Kellog Hotel and Conference Center. It's historical strengths have been in packaging, hospitality, supply chain management, and telecommunication. There are 19 colleges and schools offering over 200 programs (undergrad, grad, professional). MUS also has study-abroad programs numbering over 275, in more than 60 countries. Notable alumni include various former Michigan governors, U.S. senators and ambassadors; several billionaires; Pulitzer-winning novelist Richard Ford; actors Robert Urich and comedians Dick Martin and Jackie Martling; film director Sam Raimi; numerous NBA basketball players including Magic Johnson; major league football and baseball players, and others.

  10. Pennsylvania State University

    University Park, PA

    Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania was founded in 1855. A $50M gift in 1967 from chocolate magnate Milton S. Hershey helped establish a college of medicine and a teaching hospital, the latter of which currently provides care to over a million patients yearly. Penn State has 24 campuses, 17K faculty, 100K students. PSU has 18 schools and colleges that offer over 160 bachelor majors, as well as various grad and professional degrees. It has an online World Campus that offers identical degrees to on-campus students. Notable projects include the Lunar Lion team's plans to land the first university-built robotic spacecraft on the moon in 2015.

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