The United States: The biggest draw for international students in 2023

In recent years, the number of students who want to do long- or short-term courses abroad has increased significantly, and one of the main destinations drawing them is the United States.

Long one of the world’s great powers, with a vigorous economy, a strong military presence, and influence on global politics and culture, the United States stands out for students seeking high-quality academics offered by renowned educational institutions.

Motivated by the unique opportunity to experience American culture, international students choose the United States due to their growing demand for acquiring skills essential to the job market, especially since the country has diverse career opportunities. Moreover, it offers an interesting and challenging educational and professional environment for expanding students’ knowledge.

The most attractive destinations for international students in the United States

Across the United States, thousands of universities, colleges, and community colleges match international students’ interests, goals, and budgets. But ten cities in particular stand out in the 2024 QS Best Student Cities ranking.

Boston waterfront


Ranking number one among US cities for education, Boston is home to many of the United States’ leading colleges and universities, including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tufts University, Boston College, and Boston University. This wealth of renowned educational institutions makes the city an attractive destination for international students due to its world-class academics, privileged geographic location, quality of life, and notable career opportunities.

Statue of Liberty, New York.

New York

As number two in the ranking for hosting some of the best colleges and universities in the world, including Columbia University, New York University (NYU), and Fordham University, among others, New York looms big in people’s imagination. Considered the financial and commercial hub of the United States, it offers diverse internship and employment opportunities to international students in many industries, such as finance, marketing, technology, and entertainment, among others.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco is famously the technology and innovation hub of the United States, with many relevant technology companies in the Silicon Valley region. Other factors that attract students to this destination are its high quality of life, world-renowned academic institutions such as the University of California—Berkeley and Stanford University, cultural diversity, and privileged geographic location. The University of California—San Francisco ranks among the top American medical schools.

Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles

With important universities like the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles is an attractive destination for international students due to its high-quality academic institutions and top spot in the entertainment industry, with Hollywood being one of the world’s main centers of film and television production. The city has a pleasant climate, cultural diversity, vibrant nightlife, and many options for leisure (including world-class museums and beaches), not to mention job and networking opportunities in plenty of areas.



With universities such as the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, Chicago is a popular destination for international students. These institutions offer undergraduate and graduate programs in different areas, including business, law, medicine, engineering, and the arts.

Atlanta, Georgia


A distinctive and constantly growing city that has attracted many international students in recent years due to its strong economy and rich culture, Atlanta is known for its influential academic institutions, such as the Georgia Institute of Technology (nicknamed Georgia Tech), Emory University, and Georgia State University.

The US Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

Climbing a few positions since previous rankings as a popular destination among international students due to its political and cultural importance, Washington, D.C. is dynamic and distinctive, with many opportunities to explore American history, culture, and arts—including a giant district of free and nationally important museums known as the Smithsonian Institution. The US capital is also home to solid academic institutions, including Georgetown University and George Washington University.



A city that attracts international students seeking an educational experience rich in history, culture, and arts, Philadelphia is home to many renowned universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Drexel University, and the University of the Arts, which offer a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs in many fields. Philadelphia is also renowned for its restaurant scene, with restaurant districts worth exploring all over the city. What’s more, the city is a relatively short drive or train ride to New York and the beaches of the New Jersey coast.

San Diego

San Diego

Ranking among the ten most important American cities for education for the first time, San Diego has been drawing the attention of students who increasingly seek a place to upgrade their academic life. This reflects the excellent education that some of San Diego’s main universities offer, such as the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), San Diego State University (SDSU), and the University of San Diego (USD).

Moreover, the city is home to a variety of industries, including technology, biotechnology, healthcare, tourism, and many others. As a result, students have access to internships and job opportunities in thriving and innovative industries. (What’s more, there are many nearby beaches!)



This city has increasingly attracted international students thanks to its strong economy and welcoming university environment. Famous for its transformation into a technological and business innovation center, it also has exceptional institutions such as the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, which offer high-quality academic programs.


International students in the United States

In general, educational institutions in the United States have a large international presence due to their academic credentials, privileged geographic location, availability of study programs in English, and the research and career opportunities they offer.

According to the 2022 Opendoors report, the main nationalities seeking academic opportunities in the United States are students from China, India, South Korea, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Mexico, and Nigeria.

Why do international students want to study in the United States? Well-known for its strong economy, the country also draws attention to the number of renowned colleges and universities that rank among the largest and best institutions of higher learning worldwide. Moreover, the United States offers different career possibilities for international students in businesses and nonprofit organizations, not to mention opportunities to extend their stay after completing their courses.

The multicultural experience is also a decisive factor, since the country is highly diverse and offers the chance to learn about other cultures and traditions. Combined with the resources and cutting-edge technology of American universities, these factors make the United States a popular destination for international students seeking a high-quality education and personal and professional development.

What areas of study do international students pursue in the United States?

The United States offers high-quality teaching in an education system that values creativity, critical thinking, and innovation. The most popular areas among international students may vary, depending on the season and their interests, but some standout areas are business and administration, engineering, computer science, health sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.
What are the advantages of studying in the United States for international students?

Studying in the United States can provide many advantages for international students who want to expand their academic skills, build a global career, and experience different cultures.

Apart from offering a high-quality education, US universities provide a wide range of career options in companies and nonprofit organizations, not to mention the opportunity to establish a vast network of professional and academic connections, increasing the chances of career success.

Finally, the US lifestyle and vibrant leisure opportunities can provide an enriching experience beyond academic studies. Most of these cities offer cultural opportunities, including museums, festivals, concerts, and sporting events, that are sure to capture the hearts of students who come there to continue their education.

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