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Best Cities for International Students in the USA

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Best Cities for International Students in the USA

Nov 03, 2022Date Published
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best cities for international students in usa

The USA, comprising 50 states, takes up a sizable chunk of North America - and the world map too. Stretching from Alaska down to Hawaii, this massive country has over 19,000 incorporated places - counting cities and towns. Where you choose to study as an international student can completely alter your American experience! From local cuisine and cultural quirks to diverse landscapes and seasons, there really might be something for everyone in the USA. Browse through our roundup of the best cities for international students in the USA!

Best Cities to Study in the USA

Looking for the best student cities in the USA? Here, after thorough research, and data analysis we have come up with a complete list of the USA's best cities for students. 

1. Boston

The birthplace of stars like Chris Evans (yes, Captain America himself), authors like Sylvia Plath, and historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, Boston also happens to be the best US city for students, according to QS Best Student Cities 2022. With a near-perfect score out of a 100 (Boston ranks a solid 96) in student view, Boston is easily a favourite among international students.

With an impressive 93.2 score for student mix, Boston is a welcoming place for college-bound foreigners. Diversity is a part of the city’s identity - you’ll fit right in among the myriads of ethnicities and cultures your campus and the city itself represent. That’s not your only incentive to gravitate to this lively city either. Some of the best universities in the world also happen to be right here - including the best university in the world, according to QS Top Universities!

Here are the top-ranking universities in Boston:

QS World University Rankings - 2022THE World University Rankings - 2022US News Global Universities - 2022
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)#1=5#2
Harvard University#5=2#1
Boston University=121#62#65
Tufts University=275=172#198
Northeastern University#342#168#176
Brandeis University=455#251-300#320
Boston College=494#251-300#625
University of Massachusetts - Boston#651-700#201-250#417

A city with its history running through its veins as a modern metropolis evolves within it, you’ll never be short of things to explore in Boston. Check out the iconic Fenway Park for a taste of American baseball, or take a gander through the majestic Boston Public Library. Dive back in time as you explore Boston’s architectural landscape, taking in buildings standing since the 17th century to modern-day architectural marvels. You can soak up the arts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum or book a day trip to the Museum of Fine Arts. We are barely scratching the surface of the number of things to do and see in this historic city!

Boston also carries an Employer Activity score of 94.4! As one of the leading financial centres of the world, hundreds of multinationals and thriving mid- to small-sized businesses cluster the area. Students have the unique opportunity to get work experience and build professional connections in an advanced economy that’s ahead of the curve.

2. New York

You’d likely have no trouble recognising the iconic New York skyline from the number of movies, TV shows, music videos, and so on this city features in. Whether you’re a Brooklyn Nine-Nine fan or faithfully rewatch Breakfast at Tiffany’s every year, you might feel like you’ve known New York even before setting foot here.

And alongside the appeal of the bustling city streets, greasy pizzas at 3 am, and getting lost in the Grand Central Terminal, New York is also an excellent destination for international students looking to get an excellent degree. The city holds the largest number of internationally ranking universities out of all the best American student cities on this list! These include big leaguers like Columbia University and New York University.

Here are the top-ranking universities in New York:

QS World University Rankings - 2022THE World University Rankings - 2022US News Best Global Universities - 2022
Columbia University#19#11#6
New York University#42#26#30
Yeshiva University=252
Rutgers - the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick=264=190#130
University of Delaware#531-540#301-350#346
The New School#561-570#801-1000
City University of New York#701-750

Stevens Institute of Technology#701-750#601-800#1202
Rutgers - the State University of New Jersey, Newark#801-1000
Fordham University#801-1000
Rochester University of Technology#1001-1200#801-1000#653

With an 83.9 score for student mix, New York is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. International students will find they’re never too far away from a spot that sells their local cuisine, grocery stores to shop for ingredients you grew up eating, and folks that speak with the familiar twang of home. In the meantime, you get to meet a whole bunch of people of different backgrounds and experiences while growing into a true New Yorker yourself!

Whether you’re soaking in the majestic sight of the Statue of Liberty, taking a stroll through Central Park, or experiencing the epicentre of big-city-living at Times Square, New York is an experience unto itself. It might be overwhelming at first to encounter a city that seems to breathe with its own life, but before you know it you’ll be breathing right along with it.

3. San Francisco

San Francisco, with its steep streets, cable cars, and pleasant weather, is a popular tourist destination for plenty of reasons. It also happens to be one of the best student cities in the States, home to Stanford University, a contender for the top 5 best global universities across a range of rankings.

Here are the top-ranking universities in San Francisco:

QS World University Rankings - 2022THE World University Rankings - 2022US News Best Global Universities - 2022
Stanford University=3#4#3
University of California, Berkeley#32#8#4
University of San Francisco#1001-1200

International students bound for San Francisco can look forward to exciting professional opportunities here. With Silicon Valley tucked against the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay Area, the city itself is unsurprisingly home to plenty of tech giants. These include names and brands you may be very familiar with, like Twitter, Uber, Airbnb, and Dropbox, to name a few, all headquartered in the area.

Alongside the high employer activity score at 86.3, San Francisco also has a great student mix score at 83.3. Like several of the best US student cities, the diversity is a real plus point for international students moving here to study. You get the full multicultural experience in this lively cosmopolitan city, alongside the great tourist experience of visiting the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time. Venture out to explore Alcatraz Island, or soak in the art, culture, and entertainment the city is famous for!

4. Los Angeles

Los Angeles is more than just the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. This sunshine-drenched metropolitan city is also a beloved international student destination. The city is proudly the home of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). With a pretty high score for student mix and impressive score for employer activity, LA is the place to be for international students looking to explore their creative spirit and enjoy their higher education journey to the fullest.

Here are the top-ranking universities in Los Angeles:

QS World University Rankings - 2022THE World University Rankings - 2022US News Best Global Universities - 2022
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)#6=2#9
University of California, Los Angeles#40#20#14
University of Southern California=112#63#70

There’s no shortage of exciting things to get up to in LA. Book yourself a Universal Studio Tour or Warner Bros Studio Tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at your favourite movies and shows! Or plan a day to explore Disneyland Park with friends, famously the place “Where Dreams Come True”. Follow the footsteps of stars young and old along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, hit up the beach, or take in the art scene at The Getty. You will never run out of things to do in LA, whether you’re thinking of university-run events, trying out the endless eateries offering menus from practically every part of the world, or checking out the vibrant night scene.

5. Chicago

If you have a special soft spot for classics like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Home Alone, Chicago might feel like your second home. Alongside the unique character of the city, with its looming skyscrapers hugging the shore of Lake Michigan, Chicago is easily one of the cities with the best student life in the USA. The University of Chicago and Northwestern University both claim top 30 spots across a range of reputable rankings. And they’re hardly the only names on the list, either.

Here are the top-ranking universities in Chicago

QS World University Rankings - 2022THE World University Rankings - 2022US News Best Global Universities - 2022
University of Chicago#10#10#15
Northwestern University#30=24#24
University of Illinois at Chicago=285#301-350#227
Illinois Institute of Chicago#444#351-400#729
Loyola University Chicago#801-1000

Museums and galleries populate the city aplenty, with popular spots like the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio for the history buffs as well as spots like the world-famous Art Institute of Chicago for art lovers. In between a classic deep-dish Chicago-style pizza lunch and catching a movie, you could fit in a baseball game or a concert. Something is always going on in Chicago, and as an international student, you get to be at the heart of it.

6. Atlanta

If films like Gone with the Wind and Baby Driver spoke to your soul, you might find Atlanta resonates with you just right. A thriving economic engine, Atlanta still has the perk of being one of the cheapest cities in the USA for international students. Add to this the plus of having several excellent educational institutions to its name, and it earns its place on this list!

Here are the top-ranking universities in Atlanta:

QS World University Rankings - 2022THE World University Rankings - 2022US News Best Global Universities - 2022
Georgia Institute of Technology#88#45#58
Emory University#160#82#74
Georgia State University#751-800#401-500#492

Atlanta sometimes goes by the nickname “City in a Forest”, balancing the charm of nature with its modern architecture and infrastructure. The city is a popular draw for international students thanks to its multicultural communities and vibrant arts and music scene. Whether you’re experiencing a piece of the past by visiting Martin Luther King’s childhood home or taking part in one of the many festivals happening here year-round, there won’t be a dull moment for you in Atlanta.

7. Philadelphia

US cities have rich histories of their own, but Philadelphia stands out against even these standards, having been the location of key events in America’s history. Some refer to the city as the birthplace of the United States since the country’s founding fathers convened here during the American Revolution. In 1776, the signing of the Declaration of Independence took place here in Philadelphia!

In the present day, the city also happens to be a student hub for higher education. With an internationally-ranking top 20 university, 13% of the University of Pennsylvania’s first-year undergrad students are international!

Here are the top-ranking universities in Philadelphia:

QS World University Rankings - 2022THE World University Rankings - 2022US News Best Global Universities - 2022
University of Pennsylvania#13=13#13
Drexel University#651-700#351-400#354
Temple University#751-800#301-350#303

History lovers can go back in time with a stroll down Elfreth’s Alley, bearing the nickname of the nation’s oldest residential street. Tuck into a classic Philly cheesesteak before paying a visit to the Liberty Bell or channelling your inner ghoul boy at the Eastern State Penitentiary. If you’re in the mood for nature, head on over to Fairmount Park, a sprawling area split in two by the Schuylkill River. We especially recommend stopping by West Fairmount Park for the cherry blossoms at Shofuso Japanese House and Garden!

8. Washington DC

The capital of the United States, DC is another city with a reputation that precedes it. You’ll be able to recognise the facade of the White House, the silhouette of Capitol Hill, and the Lincoln Memorial simply from the number of times these sights have appeared on your TV screen. Washington DC, as well as being the political epicentre of the United States, is also one of the best cities for international students in the USA!

Here are the top-ranking universities in Washington DC:

QS World University Rankings - 2022THE World University Rankings - 2022US News Best Global Universities - 2022
University of Maryland, College Park#158=93#60
Georgetown University=248#130#314
George Washington University#355

American University#651-700#501-600#653
Howard University#651-700#251-300#736

Whether you’re going boating or hitting up the cultural landmarks peppering this historic city, your time here will be an enriching experience. Look forward to visiting the world’s largest museum with a trip to the Smithsonian Institution or a more hands-on interactive experience with an evening at the International Spy Museum. There’s plenty happening in DC to make it one of the best cities for international students in the USA.

9. Pittsburgh

Famous for being the City of Bridges - we’re talking nearly 450 bridges here - and the birthplace of everyone’s favourite neighbour Mr. Rogers, Pittsburgh is among the cheapest cities in the USA for international students. Being more affordable doesn’t mean it’s any less fantastic, though - the city is home to some excellent institutions, with a warm and welcoming population.

Here are the top-ranking universities in Pittsburgh:

QS World University Rankings - 2022THE World University Rankings - 2022US News Best Global Universities - 2022
Carnegie Mellon University#48#28#102
University of Pittsburgh=163#140#42

The city is a wonderful destination for foodies looking to try out some of the local favourites, whether that’s a Primanti sandwich or the hotcakes at Pamela’s Diner. Frequently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the nation, international students get to enjoy a more casual experience than the breakneck speed some of the other cities on this list move at if that’s more your thing.

10. San Diego

With good scores for both student mix and affordability relative to US student cities, San Diego sits along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Along with the allure of sunny weather and golden beaches, the city has its fair share of great universities too!

Here are the top-ranking universities in San Diego:

QS World University Rankings - 2022THE World University Rankings - 2022US News Best Global Universities - 2022
University of California, San Diego#48#34#21
San Diego State University#1001-1200#601-800#610
University of San Diego#1001-1200

One of the US cities with the best weather for sunshine lovers, San Diego has plenty of attractions to keep you exploring. Stop by at the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park to meet some animal friends, or head on over to visit the Old Globe Theatres for a Shakespearean evening. If you want to hit up one of the many beaches for an idyllic afternoon under the sun, go ahead and enjoy! With diverse cuisines, pleasant weather, and an involved student community, San Diego earns its place as one of the best cities for international students in the USA.

Concluding Thoughts

The USA is far too large, and not to mention home to hundreds of internationally-ranking universities, for us to cover the highlights in a single article. However, we hope that our round-up of the best cities for international students in the USA has given you a good idea of where to start looking for your dream destination. Your international student adventures will be unique and exciting depending on where you’re heading. One thing we can guarantee though is that alongside a stellar education, you’ll make memories to last a lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the best cities for Indian students in the USA?

This entirely depends on you and what you’re looking for in your student destination! The answer may be different depending on whether you’re looking for a city with an impressive student mix score, or a place with more employer activity is your goal. Perhaps you’re on the lookout for the more affordable cities to study in! Maybe the university matters to you more than the place you’re living in. For you, the living experience might be more than half your motivation for studying abroad. Whatever the case, we recommend narrowing down your preferences for your ideal student city before looking into what the USA has to offer. Given how huge and diverse this country is, with tens of thousands of student communities across the map, you’re sure to find the right place for you.

What are the best cities for undergraduate students in the USA?

US cities are huge, and the universities and colleges populating them can vary quite a bit from place to place. It’s hard to broadly say which are the best cities for undergraduate students or the best cities for postgraduate students. We advise narrowing your search by school and program instead. You might find a concentration of great community colleges in a specific city, but perhaps they don’t have the course you’re looking for. Two universities in the same city might have very different opportunities for postgraduate students.

To narrow your search down, you can start off with a student city that checks off some of the boxes important to you. Maybe you’re going to focus your search on more affordable cities, or the financial and economic hubs of the country. Maybe living in a diverse community is more important to you, or you’re looking out for a place with more pleasant weather year-round. Once you zero in on where you want to study, if that is your top priority, you can then zoom in on the schools and programs and filter down to find the right fit for you.