There are a variety of factors which foreign students consider when choosing a particular school or region in the United States. The first consideration is the school itself, with schools often chosen because of direct outreach to foreign students as well as financial aid packages and application assistance to help students negotiate the process. But of course the reputation of the school is also critical, with most foreign exchange students seeking out spots at the top tier institutions.
The ranking of the most popular college destinations varies year by year, largely because individual schools may alter their policies with increasing outreach and aid for foreign students, or by cutting back on programs. Yet time and again, some of the top colleges for foreign students always include: University of Southern California, New York University, Columbia University, University of Illinois, Purdue University, University of Michigan, University of Texas, UCLA, and Boston University. All of these schools are known world wide for top of the line academic programs. They also have strong programs for outreach to attract the best and the brightest, not only at home in the United States, but abroad as well.
University of Southern California, as an example, recently opened an office in Shanghai, with the express purpose of attracting students from the region. Lone Star, Mount Holyoke and Rochester Institute of Technology are all actively working with foreign schools and governments to attract foreign exchange students, from China to India to Kazakhstan.
Predictably, schools with internationally famous science and business programs rank near the top of the list. These schools also tend to have the size and financial heft to be able to offer aid to students who may find college expenses a challenge.
However, there are some regional surprises. A case in point is Brigham Young University, at the Hawaii campus, which hosts over 1,200 foreign students, SUNY Fashion Institute, with a foreign student population of over 1,000, and University of Dallas with 400 students.
In addition, foreign students are also discovering what many American students have learned long ago, community colleges can be a terrific bargain. More and more foreign students are flocking to these institutions for the two year degrees. Houston Community College has nearly 4,000 foreign students. Montgomery and Santa Monica College have about 3,000 each.
All in all, coastal destinations dominate, particularly; California, New York, and Texas. But of course, there are the Midwest surprises which shine through, like the University of Illinois, largely because of their outreach and history of academic excellence. When attracting those with a drive to learn, nothing but the very best will do.