International Students


Boston colleges welcome international students with open arms. As a matter of fact, there are over 35,000 international students in the Boston area. Boston University alone has over 5000 international students from 100 different countries, and most colleges make a great effort to help international students apply and get settled. 

Each college has its own rules for international students, but following are some general guidelines. Please make sure you know the exact requirements of your specific college.


Some colleges have special application forms for international students. Other schools use the Common Application with or without an international supplement.

English Proficiency

If your native language is not English, you will need to submit proof of English proficiency to the college. You must take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). It varies from school to school what the expected score has to be, but it is generally around 550. Other rules may apply for web-based tests. Check with your school.

Secondary School Records

Along with your application, you generally need to submit official secondary school academic records of the last four years of study, plus a copy of any terminating or qualifying examination results or certificates. Additionally, you need to submit any record of advanced study. If you are a transfer student, you need to submit translated college transcripts.

Letter of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are always helpful and are required by some colleges. They should be in English.

Student Visas

To enter the United States to study, you will need a visa, usually an F-1 student visa. You need to apply for this visa and submit the following documents to the United States Embassy or Consulate:

  • A valid Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility issued by the college you will attend

  • A passport

  • Evidence of financial support

Your college will provide you with the I-20 certificate after you have been admitted and have submitted evidence of financial support.

Each school has its own procedures, so make sure you find out the details for your school.

Documentation of financial support

Colleges require some type of documentation of financial support. What this means is that you need to be able to prove that you, your parents, or your supporters have sufficient funds to complete your studies. This can involve the signing of a financial disclosure form and generally involves some sort of documented proof of funds' such as bank statements. 


Locating a room, apartment, or place to share is difficult if you are not living in the Boston area. Unless it is absolutely impossible, you should plan to visit Boston a few months before starting school here, allowing several days at that time to search for housing. Late August and the first week in September are the most difficult times to look for housing in Boston because you are competing with many other students. It is also possible to locate housing on the internet via Craig's List and other websites. For more on this subject, click here.

Health Insurance

Boston has one of the best health care systems in the world. Access is easily available through colleges, doctor offices, and clinics. All Boston area colleges require students to have health insurance. They do not accept insurance from other countries. So international students need to purchase insurance to be covered. There are a number of options, but likely the best choice is to purchase Student Health Plans (SHP) from the college you are joining. These plans are reasonably priced and tailored to students and their families. For more information, click here.

Cell Phones

International students will find that their cell phones may not work here or that they are too expensive to operate. So the best choice is to buy a new phone. There are numerous choices and plans available. For more information, click here.

Driving in the US

If you want to drive in the US, you need to have a local driver's license. If you have a valid driver's license from your country, you can drive for one year in the US. There are exceptions to this rule, depending on the country that issued your license. If the license is not printed in English, you should also carry an International Driver's Permit. For more information on foreign licenses, please click here.

To get a local driver's license that is valid in the entire US, you need to apply at the local RMV (

When you apply, take the following information:

  • Social Security Number (or official denial notice) from the Social Security Office
  • passport
  • I-20 form or DS-2019 form
  • white I-94 arrival/departure card
  • evidence of current address in Boston (e.g., lease or rent agreement, utility bill, or mail received with address)
  • current driver’s license from your home country or an international driver’s license
  • method of payment