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Universities in California: An International Student Guide

Posted on October 12th, 2022 by International Student
outdoor, health, beach

Studying in California is attractive for various reasons, including the state’s high standard of living, its sun-kissed climate, its world-famous beaches, its exciting cities, its abundance of cultural riches, and its undisputed position at the forefront of modern technology, to name just a few.

There are many world-class universities in the state, and they have a welcoming attitude toward international students. California, known as the “golden state” owing to its past in gold mining and its typical golden-brown hills in the summer, is the home of Los Angeles, the entertainment center of the world and the second-largest city in the United States by population.

The state of California is well-known for its many illustrious educational institutions, such as the world-renowned Stanford University, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

If you are interested in attending college in the state known as the “golden state,” continue scrolling down this page for additional information about the best colleges and institutions in California, student life, and some of our favourite facts about the state.

Benefits Of Studying In California As An International Student

There’s a solid reason why so many young people decide to make California their home while they pursue their education. Why is going to school in California such a big issue before we get into the specifics of the city itself?

QS-Ranked Universities: California is home to many QS-listed institutions within the top 10. The list includes the third-ranked Stanford University and the first-ranked California Institute of Technology (Ranked 6th).

Student Paradise: The student culture in California is very well-known. International students will find it a veritable paradise, with some of the world’s finest festivals, restaurants, national parks, etc.

Diverse Culture: Cultures from around the world may be found in California. The city has a warm attitude toward people of all cultures and is interested in making new acquaintances.

Best Student City: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities in California welcome students. Over the years, many students studying abroad have found these to be the best option.

Top Courses To Study In California

Studying in California is a popular option because of the variety of programs available.

Students may choose their own majors and should be able to count on receiving a quality education that will help them develop their talents and expand their horizons. The top courses to study in California are:

  • Business
  • Management
  • Law
  • Arts
  • Music
  • Computer Science
  • Social Sciences
  • Physical Sciences
  • Engineering, etc

There are many other methods to take these classes, such as:

  • A degree program
  • Simultaneous degree
  • Minor courses
  • Certificate programs, etc

The following are a typical duration for California courses:

  • Undergraduate courses- four year
  • Graduate courses- minimum four years, maximum four year
  • Doctorate courses- minimum four years, maximum 6 years

Student Life in California

California is not only home to Hollywood’s film industry but also a thriving music scene that has given the world such iconic acts. Acts such as; the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Guns N’ Roses, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2Pac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Carlos Santana, Frank Zappa, Mötley Crüe, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and Iron Butterfly.

Apart from being the hub of modern pop culture, California also plays a major role in agriculture, aerospace, biotechnology, and manufacturing and is most notably home to Silicon Valley, one of the world’s top concentrations of high-tech innovation.

Its cultural and ethnic variety mirrors its population’s wide range of skills. About 38% of Californians identify as Hispanic or Latino, and 13% identify as Asian, according to the latest available US Census statistics (2010).

Approximately 6% are people of African descent, while 5% are multiracial. California was one of the first states to allow same-sex marriage, and it is often regarded as one of the most progressive states in the United States.

California is home to some of the most beautiful and varied landscapes in the United States, from idyllic beaches to towering mountains to three of the world’s 100 best cities for students. California has some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the United States, so it’s no surprise that the state has a reputation for ecology and conservation.

Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park (the original home of the huge sequoia trees, the biggest living beings on Earth) are just two of California’s many national parks worth visiting. There is a wide variety of ecosystems and species in this state, as well as impressive cliffs, clear streams and waterfalls, enormous redwood (sequoia) trees, an inland salt lake, two huge lakes (Lake Tahoe and Clear Lake), and more. 

In summary, you’ll find a welcoming atmosphere in California if you want to pursue your interests in technology, music, international cultures, conservation, acting, photography, or computer programming.

How Much Does It Cost to Study in California?

Tuition at several of California’s top private research colleges is rather expensive. For the upcoming 2021-22 academic year, Stanford’s tuition was around $55,000.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2019–20, out-of-state students paid an average of more than $32,000 in tuition and fees at California’s public institutions, while private California schools charged an average of more than $37,000.

In contrast, in the United States, the average cost of tuition and fees at public colleges was over $27,000 for the 2019-2020 academic year, while at private schools, it was around $33,000.

The total tuition and fees for a year at any of the nine campuses in the University of California system in California in 2022 were $43,900 if you were not a resident of California. Room and board, textbooks, supplies, medical insurance, and transportation are extra expenses to consider while budgeting for California’s college.

The UC system estimates that the overall cost of these extras is almost $23,500 for on-campus students and $20,900 for those who choose to live elsewhere. Even though California has the third highest cost of living in the United States, it is also the third biggest state and home to several universities located in locations with diverse living prices.

How Do I Choose a College in California?

A total of over 450 colleges and universities were part of California’s higher education system as of the year 2021. That’s a whole lot of possible outcomes to consider.

Selecting schools based on their area accreditation, which guarantees strong academic standards, might be a good first step in narrowing down your possibilities. Then, consider the following guidelines while searching for the best overseas college.

Identify Your Interests

Many international students have come a long way in attending California universities. You should make sure that going to college is worth it by selecting a program that fits your goals and values. Once you know what you want to study, list colleges that offer those courses.

Research Your Options

Researching a school’s success rates requires looking at factors including enrolment, retention, and graduation rates. Once you have a shortlist of potential colleges, it is time to begin your investigation directly via the schools’ websites or through college rating resources.

Compare the courses, teachers, and degree requirements of each option carefully. Specialization is available in certain degrees, while internships may be mandatory in others. These variations need careful consideration as you search for the college and degree program to help you reach your professional and educational objectives.

Determine Location

There are many cities and villages throughout the state of California, each with its unique character. For instance, whereas San Jose and Palo Alto are at the heart of Silicon Valley, also known as the high-tech business center, Los Angeles is the symbol of the mega-entertainment industry.

Cities like Arcata and San Luis Obispo on the state’s central and central coast are ideal for housing other universities. When choosing an institution and city to study in, international students should consider how big each is.

Evaluate Your Eligibility

Schools have different standards for international students. Minimum GPAs, prerequisite courses, and other criteria may apply according to the nation of residence.

Applicants from outside the United States may be required to take an English proficiency test like the TOEFL or IELTS to show that they are fluent in the language. Make careful to confirm your eligibility before applying.

Consider Cost

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2019, out-of-state students paying full tuition and fees at a California university may expect to pay between $32,000 and $37,000 on average.

Although international students in California are ineligible for federal financial help, they may be eligible for scholarships offered by private organizations and corporations. Also, day-to-day living costs may add up quickly.

In 2020-22, the College Board predicted that room and board at a four-year U.S. institution would cost an average of $11,620 to $13,120. The UC system estimates that students spend between $14,100 or $17,300 a year to attend.

Eligibility Criteria For Study Abroad California Universities

Before students apply to study in California, they must satisfy the qualifying criteria. These criteria may change depending from one institution to another, yet there is a common approach that is followed by all:

GPA Scores

Students should get a GPA score of 3.4 or more to be admitted to their preferred institution.

English Language Proficiency

ELP aims to assist institutions in assessing how highly skilled a student is with the English language. There are several ELP exams you may take like as TOEFL IBT, IELTS, etc. The scores for each vary; for instance, IELTS- 6.5 or above, SAT- 31 for writing and language, etc.

High School/ Bachelor Degree

Students must present relevant academic transcripts if they want to enroll in a certain program. You need a high school transcript to apply to colleges, a bachelor’s degree to apply to university, etc.

Visa Proof

When you apply to any institution overseas, you need to apply for a student visa for the US additionally. An F1 student visa is needed to study in California. This visa will be valid for 60 days after completing the selected academic study program.

Entrance Exam proof

Course applicants should also verify whether or not prerequisites or admission examinations are required. For instance, applying to medical school in California requires NEET scores, which students from India often obtain.

Best Colleges in California

  1. Stanford University
  2. California Institute of Technology
  3. University of California, Berkeley
  4. California State University, Los Angeles
  5. University of Southern California
  6. California State University, Santa Barbara
  7. University of California, Irvine
  8. University of California, San Diego
  9. University of California, Davis
  10. Pepperdine University
  11. Santa Clara University
  12. Loyola Marymount University
  13. California State University, Santa Cruz
  14. California State University, Riverside
  15. California State University, Merced
  16. University of San Diego
  17. University of San Francisco
  18. Chapman University
  19. California State University–Long Beach
  20. San Diego State University


1. How do I get a student visa for California?

First, overseas students must apply to a university. F-1 visas are most frequent for full-time California State University students. Most institutions suggest applying six months before your first term. Once approved, the school provides an I-20 form.

The DS-160 online nonimmigrant visa application must also be completed. Proof of adequate income for tuition, living expenses, and strong links to the home country is also required. Students carry these papers to U.S. Consulate in their nation.

2. Is California good for international students?

There’s a good reason why more international students pick California as their study abroad destination than any other state. California is home to several prestigious research institutions. Students may choose from some of the best film, television, and music programs in the world, in addition to prestigious scientific and engineering universities. Students in California may also take advantage of the state’s rich cultural offerings, which include exposure to international events, cuisine, and people.

Plus, the environment in the state is so diverse that students may enjoy sports like skiing, surfing, scuba diving, and rock climbing, as well as visit nine national parks.

3. Can I study in California for free?

Any school that accepts international students will charge tuition. In any event, overseas students interested in studying in California might look into available scholarship options.

2 Responses to “Universities in California: An International Student Guide”

  1. Sundze Ibrahim Moubarak Says:

    Thanks for the support

  2. I want to study and work in California Says:

    It is quiet my desire to study and work in California as a registered nurse midwife…AM also a registered pediatrician. I promised to render quality individualized care to all patients.

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