University of California: A Guide for International Students

Studying in California has many attractions, including the state’s high standard of living, sunny climate, world-renowned beaches, exciting cities, rich cultural wealth and undisputed position at the forefront of modern technology, just to name a few.

The state is home to many world-class universities who are welcoming to international students. Known as the “Golden State” for its gold mining past and the golden brown hills typical of the summer months, California is home to the world’s entertainment center and the second largest city in the United States, Los Angeles, by population.

California is known for its many outstanding educational institutions, such as the world-renowned Stanford University, Caltech, UC Berkeley and UCLA.

If you’re interested in attending college in the state known as the “Golden State,” keep scrolling down this page for more information about California’s best universities and institutions, student life, and some of our favorite facts about the state.

Benefits of studying in California as an international student
So many young people are deciding to make California their home during their studies, and for good reason. Why is going to school in California such a big deal until we get into the details of the city itself?

QS-Ranked Universities: California boasts many of the top 10 QS-listed universities. The list includes #3 Stanford University and #1 California Institute of Technology (#6).

Student Paradise: California is well known for its student culture. International students will find it a veritable paradise with some of the best festivals, restaurants, national parks and more in the world.

Multiculturalism: Cultures from all over the world can be found in California. The city has a welcoming attitude toward people of different cultures and an interest in meeting new people.

Best Cities for Students: Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities in California welcome students. Over the years, many students who have studied abroad have found these to be the best options.

Popular courses to study in California

Studying in California is a popular choice due to the wide variety of programs available.

Students can choose their major and should be able to count on receiving a quality education that will help them develop their talents and broaden their horizons. The top courses to study in California are
• Business
• Management
• Law
• Art
• Music
• Computer Science
• Social Sciences
• Physical Sciences
• Engineering, etc.

There are many other ways to access these classes, such as
• Degree programs
• Concurrent degrees
• Minor courses
• Certificate programs, etc.

The following are the typical lengths of California programs.
• Undergraduate programs – four years
• Graduate programs – minimum four years, maximum four years
• Doctoral programs – minimum of four years and maximum of six years

Student Life in California
California is not only the birthplace of the Hollywood film industry, but it is also a thriving music scene that has brought such iconic acts to the world. Acts such as; The Beach Boys, The Birds, Guns N’ Roses, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2Pac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Carlos Santana, Frank Zappa, Mötley Crüe, 30 Seconds to Mars and Iron Butterfly.

In addition to being a center of modern pop culture, California plays an important role in agriculture, aerospace, biotechnology and manufacturing, and is best known for Silicon Valley, one of the highest concentrations of high-tech innovation in the world.

Its cultural and ethnic diversity reflects the broad range of skills of its population. According to the most recent U.S. Census statistics (2010), approximately 38 percent of Californians identify as Hispanic or Latino and 13 percent identify as Asian.

About 6 percent are of African descent, while 5 percent are multiracial. California was one of the first states to allow same-sex marriage and is often considered to be one of the most progressive states in the United States.

California is home to some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the United States, from idyllic beaches to towering mountains to three of the top 100 cities in the world for students. California has some of the strictest 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 giant redwood tree, the largest living thing on earth) are just two of the many national parks in California that are worth visiting. The state has a wide variety of ecosystems and species, as well as impressive cliffs, crystal clear streams and waterfalls, giant redwood (Sequoia) trees, an inland salt lake, two huge lakes (Lake Tahoe and Clear Lake), and much more.

In short, if you want to pursue an interest in technology, music, international culture, conservation, performance, photography, or computer programming, you will find a welcoming atmosphere in California.

How much does it cost to study in California?
Tuition at several of California’s top private research colleges is quite expensive. For the upcoming 2021-22 academic year, tuition at Stanford University will be approximately $55,000.

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

By comparison, the average tuition and fees at public universities in the U.S. for the 2019-2020 academic year is more than $27,000, while private schools are charging about $33,000.

If you are not a California resident, the total tuition and fees for any of the nine campuses in the UC system will be $43,900 for one year in 2022. Room and board, textbooks, supplies, health insurance and transportation are additional costs that need to be considered when budgeting for the University of California.

The UC system estimates that the total cost of these additional costs is almost $23,500 for current students and $20,900 for those who choose to live elsewhere. Although California has the third highest cost of living in the United States, it is also the third largest state and has several universities located in areas with varying prices of living.

How do I choose a college in California?
As of 2021, there are over 450 colleges and universities that are part of the California higher education system. There are many possible outcomes to consider.

Choosing a school based on their regional accreditation, which guarantees strong academic standards, may be a good first step in narrowing down your possibilities. Then, consider the following guidelines in your search for the best overseas universities.

Determine your interests
Many international students have made great strides in attending a California university. You should make sure that attending college is worthwhile by choosing a program that fits your goals and values. Once you know what you want to study, list the colleges that offer those programs.

Research your options
Researching a school’s success rate involves looking at factors such as enrollment, retention and graduation rates. Once you have a shortlist of potential colleges, start your research directly through the school’s website or through college rating resources.

Carefully compare the curriculum, faculty and degree requirements for each option. Some degrees may offer specialization, while internships may be mandatory in other degrees. These variations need to be carefully considered as you search for colleges and degree programs to help you achieve your professional and educational goals.

Determining Location
California has many cities and villages, each with its own unique characteristics. For example, while San Jose and Palo Alto are located in the heart of Silicon Valley, also known as a high-tech business center, Los Angeles is the symbol of the large entertainment industry.

Cities such as Acta and San Luis Obispo, located in the central and mid-coast of the state, are perfect for housing other universities. When choosing an institution and city to study in, international students should consider the size of each one.

Assess your qualifications
Schools have different criteria for international students. Minimum GPAs, required courses and other criteria may apply depending on the country of residence.

Applicants from outside the United States may be required to take an English proficiency test such as the TOEFL or IELTS to demonstrate their language fluency. Please double check your eligibility before applying.

Consider the Cost
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that out-of-state students paying full tuition and fees at the University of California are expected to pay an average of $32,000 to $37,000 in 2019.

While international students in California are not eligible for federal financial help, they may be eligible for scholarships from private organizations and companies. In addition, the cost of daily living is likely to increase rapidly.

For the 2020-22 academic year, the College Board projects that room and board costs at four-year U.S. institutions will average $11,620 to $13,120. The UC system estimates that students will spend between $14,100 or $17,300 per year.

UC Eligibility Criteria for Study Abroad
Before students can apply to study in California, they must meet eligibility criteria. These criteria may vary from institution to institution, but all follow a common approach.

GPA Score
Students should earn a GPA score of 3.4 or higher to be admitted to their preferred institution.

English Language Proficiency
The ELP is designed to help institutions assess a student’s English language proficiency. You can take a variety of ELP tests, such as the TOEFL IBT, IELTS, and others. The scores for each test vary; for example, IELTS-6.5 or higher, SAT-31 Writing and Language, etc.

High school/bachelor’s degree
If a student wishes to enroll in a program, the student must present relevant transcripts. You will need a high school transcript to apply to college, a bachelor’s degree to apply to university, etc.

Proof of Visa
When applying to an overseas institution, a separate U.S. student visa is required. An F1 student visa is required to study in California. This visa is valid for 60 days after completion of the selected academic program of study.

Proof of Entrance Examination
Program applicants should also verify whether prerequisites or entrance exams are required. For example, a NEET score is required to apply to medical school in California, and Indian students typically receive that score.

Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I get a California student visa?
First, overseas students must apply to a university. f-1 visas are most commonly used for full-time students at California State Universities. Most institutions recommend applying during the first six months of the first semester. Once approved, the university will provide an I-20 form.

A DS-160 online nonimmigrant visa application must also be completed. Proof of sufficient income to cover tuition, living expenses, and close ties to your home country is also required. Students bring these documents to the U.S. Consulate in their home country.

2. Is California a good place for international students?
There is a good reason more international students choose California as their study destination than any other state. California is home to several prestigious research institutions. In addition to renowned science and engineering universities, students can choose from some of the best film, television and music programs in the world. California students can also take advantage of the state’s rich cultural offerings, including exposure to international events, cuisine and personalities.

In addition, the state’s environment is so diverse that students can enjoy sports such as skiing, surfing, scuba diving and rock climbing, as well as visit nine national parks.

3. Can I study for free in California?
Any school that accepts international students will charge tuition. In any case, overseas students interested in studying in California may want to consider the available scholarship options.