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Best Cities in the USA for Overseas Students

ACAlpina ChariOct 18, 2023

The United States of America has been one of the most prominent destinations for high-quality education for a long time. The country has produced many Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, and influential thinkers who have contributed to various fields of knowledge and society. Additionally, according to various ranking organizations, the USA is home to 19 of the 25 highest-ranked universities in the world. There is no dearth of inflow of international students to the country, which hosts the largest immigrant population in the world. According to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), there were 948,519 international students enrolled in the US in the 2021/22 academic year. As such, international students make up a large part of the country’s economy. The USA is home to 14 of the top 100 student-friendly cities in the world, according to the QS Best Student Cities Rankings 2024. The best cities in the USA for international students offer quality education, diverse academic programs, exposure to different cultures and perspectives, and the potential for career advancement and personal growth.

In this article, we will list some of the best cities for international students in the USA based on various criteria, such as student satisfaction, affordability, employer activity, and university rankings. 

What Makes a Good City for International Students?

A good city for international students should provide a supportive and enriching environment that helps them excel academically and have a positive cultural and social experience. Here are some key factors that make a city attractive to international students:  

Quality of Education: High-quality universities and colleges with a strong international reputation are essential. A variety of academic programs and courses, including those in English, should be available. 

Safety: A low crime rate and a general feeling of safety are crucial for international students. They should feel comfortable walking around the city, using public transportation, and exploring local culture.  

Cultural Diversity: A culturally diverse population and a welcoming attitude toward international students create an inclusive atmosphere, fostering cross-cultural understanding and friendships.  

Employment Opportunities: Access to internships, co-op programs, and post-graduation employment opportunities in the city or region is important, as many international students seek work experience and potential immigration opportunities.  

Cost of Living: A reasonable cost of living, including affordable accommodation and accessible public transportation, is essential to ensure that students can manage their expenses.

Healthcare: Access to good healthcare services and insurance options is crucial for the well-being of international students.  

Housing Options: The availability of affordable, safe, and convenient housing options, such as dormitories, shared apartments, or homestays, can greatly affect a student’s experience.  

Transportation: Efficient and well-connected public transportation systems, such as buses, trams, subways, and trains, make it easier for students to navigate the city.  

Recreation and Cultural Activities: A city with a vibrant cultural scene, recreational activities, and entertainment options can offer students a well-rounded experience outside of their studies.  

Support Services: Access to academic support, counseling, career services, and assistance with visa and immigration matters is vital for international students.   

Networking Opportunities: A city that hosts events, seminars, and workshops related to international and academic interests helps students build valuable connections.  

Quality of Life: An overall high quality of life, including clean air, green spaces, and a welcoming community, contributes to the well-being of international students.  

Legal Rights and Protections: Understanding and protecting the legal rights of international students, including anti-discrimination laws, are important for their safety and well-being. 

Best Cities in the USA for International Students 


Boston is the ‘student capital of USA’, as it offers an irresistible combination of high-quality education, cultural diversity, and employment opportunities. Boston is the top student city in the US, and one of the top 10 in the world, according to the QS Best Student Cities Ranking. It scores high on factors such as student view, employer activity, and rankings while scoring low on affordability. The city is home to some of the most prestigious universities in the world, such as Harvard University and MIT. Boston also has six more internationally ranked universities, making it a hub of intellectual endeavor and innovation. Boston is a dynamic and cosmopolitan city, with a diverse and thriving economy. Students can explore various career paths and opportunities in Boston, as well as gain valuable work experience and skills. Additionally, the city is home to many leading industries, such as biotechnology, health care, finance, and education.  According to the QS Best Student Cities Ranking 2024, Boston is ranked the highest among all the US cities and the third highest in the world, for employer activity,  meaning that graduates from Boston’s universities have a strong reputation among employers worldwide. 

The city also has a diverse and welcoming community, with students from different backgrounds and countries. Students can find affordable housing options in various neighborhoods, such as Brookline, Cambridge, or Allston. Students can also take advantage of the public transportation system, which connects them to different parts of the city and beyond.  Students can great food, and entertainment options in Boston, as well as discounts and offers for students. Students can also join various clubs, societies, events, and activities that suit their hobbies and passions. Boston is not only a place to study, but also a place to enjoy. The city has a rich history and culture, with many attractions such as the Freedom Trail, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Fenway Park, and the Quincy Market. Boston also has a vibrant nightlife, with plenty of bars, clubs, and live music venues to suit different tastes and budgets. Students can also explore the beautiful nature and scenery of New England, with its stunning fall colors and coastal charm.

Top Universities  Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston University
Average Single Apartment Rent  2500+ USD 
Average Tuition Fees (Top Universities) 54,880 USD/year for Harvard University, 53,450 USD/year for MIT, 58,072 USD/year for Boston University
Transport Pass Cost  90 USD 
Minimum Wage  14.25 USD/hr 
Top Companies  General Electric, Liberty Mutual, Wayfair, Biogen, Boston Scientific

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New York 

New York is a city that never sleeps, a metropolis of culture, diversity, and opportunity. It is the most populous and influential city in the United States, and a global hub for finance, media, entertainment, education, and more. The city offers a variety of benefits, such as a high-quality education, a diverse and vibrant culture, a rich history, and a dynamic nightlife.  It is home to some of the top universities in the world, such as Columbia University, New York University, Cornell University, and The City University of New York.  

New York is a city of rich history and culture, with countless museums, galleries, theaters, landmarks, and neighborhoods to explore. Students can visit iconic places like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park, Broadway, Wall Street, and more. They can also enjoy the diversity of cultures and cuisines that make up the city’s melting pot, from Chinatown to Harlem to Little Italy. The city is also known for its vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene, with something for everyone’s taste and budget. Students can experience the world-famous clubs, bars, restaurants, comedy shows, live music venues, and festivals that the city has to offer. They can also catch a game or a concert at one of the many sports arenas and stadiums in the city, such as Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium. 

New York also offers many benefits for students in terms of employability, housing options, and student attractions. The city is a global center for business, finance, media, technology, and innovation, which means that students can find many internship and career opportunities in New York. The city also has a range of housing options for students, from dormitories and apartments to homestays and hostels. Students can also take advantage of various discounts and deals that are available for them in New York’s public transportation system, museums, theaters, and other attractions.

Top Universities  Columbia University, New York University (NYU), Cornell University
Average Single Apartment Rent  3,500+ USD
Average Tuition Fees (Top Universities) 64,380 USD/year for Columbia University, 54,880 USD/year for NYU, 59,282 USD/year for Cornell University
Transport Pass Cost  127 USD 
Minimum Wage  15 USD/hr  
Top Companies  JPMorgan Chase, Verizon, IBM, Pfizer, PepsiCo

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San Francisco

San Francisco is a great city for students who want to enjoy a diverse and vibrant culture along with academic excellence. The city has a reputation for being one of the most innovative and creative places in the world, with a strong presence in technology, entrepreneurship, and social activism. San Francisco is also home to some of the top universities in the US, such as Stanford University, University of California Berkeley, and University of San Francisco, which offer a wide range of programs and research opportunities. 

Students can benefit from the affordable public transportation system, the diverse and delicious cuisine, and the rich cultural and historical attractions that the city has to offer. Some of the must-see places include the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Museum of Modern Art. San Francisco also has a lively nightlife scene, with many bars, clubs, theaters, and live music venues to suit different tastes and preferences. Students can also enjoy various events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Pride Parade, the Chinese New Year Parade, and the Outside Lands Music Festival. Moreover, San Francisco is a hub for many leading companies and organizations in different sectors, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Salesforce, Airbnb, and the United Nations. Students can find many internship and job opportunities in the city, as well as network with professionals and experts in their fields. Finally, San Francisco offers a variety of housing options for students, from dormitories and apartments to homestays and hostels.

Top Universities  University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley
Average Single Apartment Rent  2200+ USD
Average Tuition Fees  28,092 USD/year for UCSF, 56,169 USD/year for Stanford University, 14,312 USD/year for UC Berkeley.
Transport Pass Cost  98 USD
Minimum Wage  16.32 USD/hr 
Top Companies  Facebook, Google, Uber, Twitter, Airbnb, Dropbox

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Los Angeles 

Los Angeles is a vibrant and diverse city that offers many opportunities and attractions for students. It is one of the world’s leading centers of culture, entertainment, technology, and education. It has a reputation for excellence in various fields, such as film, music, art, science, and engineering. It is also home to some of the top-ranked universities in the US and the world, such as the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Southern California (USC), and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).  

Los Angeles has a rich and diverse cultural and historical heritage that students can explore and learn from. The city has more than 250 museums, covering topics such as art, history, science, and natural history. The city also has many landmarks and monuments that reflect its history and identity, such as the Hollywood Sign, the Walk of Fame, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the Santa Monica Pier.  Los Angeles also has a lively and varied nightlife scene that caters to different tastes and preferences. Students can enjoy live music, comedy shows, theater performances, clubs, bars, and restaurants in different neighborhoods and districts. Some of the most popular areas for nightlife include Hollywood, Downtown LA, West Hollywood, Silver Lake, and Venice Beach. The city also hosts many festivals and events throughout the year that celebrate its diversity and creativity, such as the LA Film Festival, the LA Pride Festival, the LA Marathon, and the Rose Parade.  It is not only a great place to study and have fun but also to prepare for a successful career. The city has a dynamic and innovative economy that offers many opportunities for students to gain valuable skills and experience. The city is a global hub for industries such as entertainment, media, technology, aerospace, tourism, fashion, and health care. 

Los Angeles is not a cheap city to live in, but it has a range of options for student accommodation, both on-campus and off-campus. However, there are also many ways to save money and enjoy the city on a budget, such as using public transportation, shopping at farmers’ markets, and taking advantage of student discounts.

Top Universities  University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Southern California (USC), California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Average Single Apartment Rent  2000+ USD
Average Tuition Fees  60,275 USD/year for USC, 56,862 USD/year for Caltech
Transport Pass Cost  100 USD 
Minimum Wage  15 USD/hr  
Top Companies  Walt Disney Company, Netflix, SpaceX, Amgen, Activision Blizzard

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Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States and has a reputation for being a global hub of culture, commerce, and innovation. The city is home to some of the best universities in the world, such as the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the Illinois Institute of Technology.  Additionally, Chicago is more affordable than other major cities like New York or Los Angeles. It also has a lower cost of living index than New York or Los Angeles. 

Chicago is also rich in culture and history, with many museums, galleries, theaters, and landmarks to explore. Some of the most famous attractions include the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Willis Tower, the Navy Pier, and the Millennium Park. It also has a lively and diverse nightlife, with many bars, clubs, restaurants, and music venues to suit different tastes and preferences. Some of the popular areas for nightlife include Wrigleyville, River North, Lincoln Park, and Wicker Park. Students can enjoy many benefits and discounts on various services and activities. For example, they can get free admission to some museums on certain days, get reduced fares on public transportation with a Ventra U-Pass, and access free or low-cost health care at some clinics. The city has a strong economy and a diverse industry base, with sectors such as finance, manufacturing, technology, health care, and tourism. Some of the largest employers in Chicago include Boeing, Walgreens, McDonald’s, United Airlines, and Abbott Laboratories. Students can find internships, part-time jobs, or full-time jobs in these or other companies through various platforms and networks. Chicago also has a variety of housing options for students, ranging from dormitories to apartments to houses.

Top Universities  University of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)
Average Single Apartment Rent  2,300 USD 
Average Tuition Fees  59,298 USD/year for the University of Chicago, 58,701 USD/year for Northwestern University
Transport Pass Cost  105 USD
Minimum Wage  15 USD/hr 
Top Companies  Boeing, McDonald’s, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Motorola Solutions, United Airlines

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In conclusion, the best cities in the USA for international students embrace diversity and dynamism in their culture, society, and economy. They offer a range of benefits for international students who want to pursue their academic goals and personal interests. From its world-class universities and research facilities to its vibrant cities and natural wonders, the USA has something for everyone. Although we have listed some of the most popular cities, this is not an exhaustive list, and there are many other cities in the USA that can cater to your numerous needs. Ultimately, the best city for you depends on your personal preferences, goals, and budget. For more information about the same reach out to us at OneApply. Book your free video call appointment now!

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Frequently Asked Questions

You should consider various factors such as the quality of the universities in the city, affordability, public transport, and other amenities, the cultural attractions, the climate, housing options, employability, etc.

Some of the most popular student cities in the USA are Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The cost of living in the USA for international students is around 10,000 USD to 18,000 USD per year, which averages around 1,000 USD to 1,500 USD per month. 

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