Our virtual educational advising office is part of the EducationUSA network of hundreds of advising centers around the world. The EducationUSA network is supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. EducationUSA centers promote U.S. higher education around the world by offering accurate, comprehensive, and current information about educational opportunities in the United States and guidance to qualified individuals on how to best access those opportunities.
The Educational Advisor for Syria offers free, virtual college counseling and guidance to students interested in studying in the USA. This includes students interested in undergraduate, graduate, or non-degree programs. The Advisor can discuss topics such as the admissions process, standardized testing, how to select a university, and financial aid opportunities.
How to Apply
It is very important to begin the admissions process as early as possible. Syrian high school students who wish to pursue their university studies in the USA should begin the application process as early as 11th grade. Graduate students should also allow at least one year for the application process.
1. Research Your Options: 12-18 months prior to enrolling
- First, you should define your priorities and ask yourself what you want to study, and how much you can afford to spend per year.
- You will want to search for different universities and create a shortlist of potential universities. You will want to visit the school’s official websites to gather more info about deadlines, requirements, programs, etc. It is important to make sure you stay organized, so make sure you use this worksheet (PDF 73 KB) to keep track of all the important info.
- Prepare for standardized tests. You will definitely need to take the TOEFL. Undergraduate students will likely need the SAT, and graduate students will probably need the GRE or GMAT.
- Research financial aid: Scholarships usually need to come directly from the universities, as external scholarships are limited. Make sure to research scholarship opportunities for international students at each university. You should also check out IIE’s Syria consortium for Higher Education in Crisis as there might be additional universities available through the consortium that you could add to your list.
- Make a short-list of your top choices (6-8 universities).
2. Complete the Applications (6-12 months prior). Universities have different deadlines, so it is important for you to be aware of these. The deadlines for most undergraduate programs that begin in the fall will be in January. Each school has different requirements as well, but generally, most require the following:
- Online application
- Essay: An essay will be required for most universities Follow the instructions carefully. U.S. universities take these essays very seriously because they provide personal information about students that may not come through in the regular application. You should answer the questions directly, give specific examples and help the university get to know you as a individual.
- Transcripts: For undergraduate applications, original or certified copies or your high school transcripts along with your baccalaureate exam will be required. For transfer or graduate students, original or certified copies of your university transcripts are required. If they are in Arabic, you will also need to submit translated copies certified by a translator.
- Letters of Recommendation: 1-2 letters of recommendation will be required from teachers or professors.
- Standardized Test scores: You will need to have your test scores sent directly by the testing agency to the universities you are applying to.
- Application fee: Most universities require an application fee that is paid online via a U.S. based credit card. If you are unable to make such a payment, feel free to the contact the EducationUSA Advisor to see if there might be a fee waiver.
3. Finance Your Studies
- Scholarship applications: Some universities have separate applications for scholarships, and others will automatically consider you for one. Make sure you follow the directions and deadlines closely!
- Explore sources of funding: Speak to family members and friends who might be willing to sponsor you.
4. Apply for the student visa: Once you have received the I-20 form and an official letter of admission from a university, you are ready to apply for the student visa. Syrian students may apply for non-immigrant visas at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and the same standards under U.S. law and policy apply at each Embassy and Consulate where one applies for a visa. Please follow the appropriate link for more information about applying for a nonimmigrant visa in Amman or Beirut. For more information about student visas, please visit: www.travel.state.gov
U.S. universities set their own admission procedures and requirements. As a part of the application process, most American colleges will require you submit scores from one of the standardized admission tests given in the U.S. Admission to any program will require an English language proficiency test. Visit the individual university websites to find specific admission test requirements.
Syrian students who have already fled Syria should be able to take standardized tests in the country where they are currently residing. For info about test centers, dates and registration please see:
- TOEFL: www.toefl.org
- IELTS: http://www.ielts.org
- SAT: http://www.collegeboard.org
- GRE: http://www.gre.org
- GMAT: www.mba.com
For Syrian students still currently residing in Syria, below is a list of the test centers and tests offered in Syria. There are no test centers available outside of Damascus.
TOEFL PBT: The Test of English as a Foreign Language will measure your language ability as it relates to writing, listening and reading. Please note that any program in the USA (undergraduate or graduate) will require the TOEFL.
The TOEFL PBT is available at the ALTC* (Formerly ALC) & The Damascus Language Institute.
To contact the ALTC in order to register for these exams, please call +963 11 33 37 936 or +963 11 33 27 236
Note: Only the PBT version of the TOEFL is offered in Syria. Since this is the only format of the test that is available, universities in the USA should accept it. The TOEFL PBT is typically offered four times per year in October, November, January and April.
For test dates, please check: https://www.ets.org/toefl
SAT: The SAT test measures a student’s verbal and mathematical reasoning ability, as well as written skills. Many universities, especially those that have more competitive admission criteria, either require or recommend the SAT for undergraduate applicants.
The SAT is available at the ALTC several times per year.
For test dates, please check: http://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-international-dates
GRE Revised General Test:
The Graduate Record Examination GRE) is often required by graduate schools in fields other than professional programs such as medicine, dentistry or law.
The paper-based test is available at the ALTC. The GRE General Test is offered three times per year in October, November and February.
For test dates, please check: http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/register/centers_dates/
GMAT: The Graduate Management Admission Test is usually required for applicants to graduate business or management programs. The GMAT is a computer- based exam and is NOT offered in Syria. Students currently residing in Syria must register to take the exam outside of Syria by calling the customer service hotline at: +44 (0) 161 855 7219, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. GMT, Monday- Friday.
Scholarships & Finances
Studying in the U.S. can be expensive, so you should look carefully at the total cost of attendance per year. The total cost for an undergraduate or graduate program can range anywhere from $25,000- $50,000 per year. This includes the total cost of tuition, housing, food, books, health insurance, and personal expenses. It is important for you to know exactly what your budget is, while searching for suitable programs.
SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SYRIAN STUDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
The Institute of International Education (IIE) is leading the IIE Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis. This consortium is comprised of universities from around the world, who have committed to providing scholarships for Syrian students, and hosting placements for Syrian scholars. Students apply directly to potential host universities. Each institution will run their own admissions process and will have a separate timeline. Students may access these opportunities here.
Daughters for Life Foundation offers full scholarships to outstanding female students from the Middle East to pursue their studies at universities in North America and Asia.
This scholarship is open to Syrian women who have demonstrated exemplary social service with leadership, academic excellence, and civic responsibility, who have characteristics reflecting the importance of empathy, humility, courage and resilience, and who have potential to serve as global leaders. Scholarship amount is up to $50,000 per student and is open to undergraduate and graduate studies.
United World Colleges (UWC) offers full scholarship program for Syrian high school students who have completed or are currently enrolled in 10th grade in Syria. The scholarship allows students to attend one of the UWC’s for two years to complete an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma.
OTHER OPPORTUNITIES FOR SYRIAN STUDENTS
The Tomorrow’s Leaders Scholarship Program is a MEPI initiative for capable and highly motivated high school seniors from Syria. Students receive full scholarships to study in AUB or LAU.
This program provides financial support and career advising to Arab students for an undergraduate or graduate degree in a STEM field at participating partner universities in the US and the Middle East.
IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) provides fellowships for established professors, researchers and public intellectuals whose lives or careers are threatened in their home countries. The fellowships support temporary academic positions at universities and research centers in safe locations anywhere in the world.
APF is a three year pilot program at IIE. With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, APF will make lifesaving fellowship grants to threatened artists from any field of artistic endeavor, and place them at host universities and arts centers in safe countries where they can continue their work.
For updates on scholarship opportunities for Syrian students and announcements, be sure to like our Facebook page:www.facebook.com/EducationusaSyria
Note: These scholarships are not affiliated or associated with EducationUSA in any way. This is merely a list of opportunities- students must do the appropriate research online and contact the individual scholarship institutions for more information Please note that the majority of scholarships must come directly from universities in the USA, as external sources of funding are limited.
There may be several types of funding available from universities on the graduate level. Please note that these are extremely competitive and are generally reserved for PhD candidates.
Fellowships and Tuition Scholarships:
These are awarded by the university’s graduate school, and are based on the student’s overall merit or academic strength. Usually, the graduate school selects fellowship or tuition scholarship recipients, but candidates are sometimes asked to submit a separate application. Recipients do not have to work for the university in exchange for these funds.
Research Assistantships (RA):
Professors apply to outside sources (foundations, agencies, etc.) for funds to conduct research, and then select graduate students to assist them. Many students apply their RA work towards their thesis research. RA funding consists of a tuition waiver plus a monthly stipend that covers your living expenses. Both half and full RA’s are available.
Teaching Assistantships (TA):
Departments determine the need for TA’s in undergraduate classes, and professors who teach those classes select graduate students to assist them in teaching, leading discussion sections, running labs, or grading assignments. TA’s have the opportunity to build important teaching skills that will help them when they become professors. TA funding consists of a tuition waiver plus a monthly stipend that covers living expenses. Both half and full TA’s are available.
Departments sometimes employ administrative assistants in positions that provide partial funding. The bottom line is that funding is limited, and each university, and department is different. Students must research all of their options thoroughly to see what options might be available for them.
Beware! Not all colleges, universities and distance learning programs advertised in newspapers or provided in online databases are accredited by one of the regional or national accrediting associations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. When planning to study in the United States, it is important to know whether an institution or program is accredited. The United States does not have a central government office that approves educational institutions. Instead, it relies on a system of voluntary accreditation carried out by nongovernmental accrediting bodies to ensure that schools meet quality standards.
When researching colleges and universities in the United States, you should always verify accreditation. If you are unfamiliar with an American college, university or distance learning program, go the U.S. Department of Education and follow the instructions below.
- Go to the homepage U.S. Department of Education: Database of Accredited Post-secondary Institutions and Programs website and click to the right of the first paragraph, on ‘Get data for one accredited institution’
- Enter the name of the institution and the state and then click ‘search’. Be sure to spell the university name correctly.
- If the university is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization, it will be listed on this page. Click on the university to find details of its accreditation status.
If you are not able to check the accreditation status of a U.S. university or have questions, send an email to: email@example.com.
EducationUSA.state.gov: Learn about the 5 Steps to US Study, financial aid, and upcoming events
Study in the USA Booklet (PDF 18 MB): Learn about studying in the USA
Study in the States: Prospective and current F or M students can use information on this page to learn about the process and rules for studying in the United States as an international student.
American English at State: American English language resources
Share America Everyday Conversations: Audio recordings about different topics to help improve English language skills
University Engagement Toolkit: How US Campuses are Helping Refugees (PDF 1.2 MB): Examples of US institutions- students, administrators and professors who are helping to contribute to the global refugee crisis response
Are you a student preparing to travel and study in the United States in the next few months? If so, check out our pre-departure orientation video. This video is led by the EducationUSA Syria Advisor, and features a panel of six Syrian students currently studying in the United States. We discuss topics such as: what to pack, visa info, culture shock, academic expectations, and adjusting to life in the USA.
Please note that EducationUSA advising centers outside of Syria offer pre-departure orientation sessions each summer. It might be helpful to attend one of these sessions in person if you are able. To find the nearest advising center near you, click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the requirements for admission?
Individual institutions set their own admission requirements and application procedures. Check college/university websites and/or printed application materials for details. You may be required to submit the following items before universities evaluate your application:
- A completed application form
- An application fee
- Official copy or certified copies of your academic transcripts stamped by the university or school. If the transcript is not in English, then it needs to be translated by a certified translator. You would need to submit both Arabic and English copies
- An application essay
- Two or three letters of recommendation.
- Certification of finances: financial documents proving you have adequate funds, or a scholarship, to study in the U.S.
- Official standardized test scores sent directly to the university from the testing company (TOEFL/SAT/GMAT/GRE, etc.)
What is a community college?
Community colleges provide two-year associate’s degree programs as well as technical and vocational programs. They can be public or private institutions and are sometimes called junior colleges or two-year colleges. Tuition costs are often lower at two-year than at four-year institutions, and many have articulation/twining agreements to allow students in transfer programs to move easily into the third year of a bachelor’s degree at a university. A growing number of international students choose to study at community colleges.
Are “colleges” and “institutes” in the U.S. as good as “universities”?
Degree-granting institutions, accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-approved accrediting organization, can be referred to by any of these terms. Colleges and institutes are not inferior to universities. As a general rule, colleges tend to be smaller than universities and usually only offer undergraduate degrees, while universities offer graduate degrees. Institutes often specialize in certain fields e.g. engineering, art, etc.
What are the deadlines to apply for admission?
Each institution/program has a different deadline. Deadlines can range anywhere from 3 to 9 months before classes start. In general, to apply to an undergraduate program of study, you should submit your application and materials by January 1st before the fall term of enrollment. Graduate deadlines will depend upon the program and department. Please note that it will take some time for materials to reach the USA, so you should send supplemental materials at least 2 weeks before the deadlines.
How much does it cost to study in the USA?
The cost of study in the United States varies widely among universities and the cost of living from one location to the next. Comprehensive costs can range from US$15,000 per year to over US$50,000 per year. The figures listed below are designed to provide some indication of how much students can expect to pay for 12 months of study in the U.S.
Finances per Year
Health Insurance $500-$1,000
Personal Expenses $1,200-$3,000
Travel to USA $1,200
I need a scholarship, how can I apply?
Scholarships are limited, which means that they are very competitive and are awarded to the students with the highest grades, strongest standardized test scores, strongest essays, recommendation letters, extra curricular activities, and work experience. There are very few scholarships available from external organizations, so scholarships must typically come from universities themselves. The total cost of attendance per year (tuition+ housing, living costs, health insurance, books, and travel) ranges from $25,000- $50,000 per year. Living costs alone can range from $10,000-$15,000 per year. It is very rare to find full scholarships that cover everything. Partial scholarships are more common. On the graduate level, it might be possible to find an assistantship depending on the university department and field of study.
Some universities are offering scholarships specifically for Syrian students. These universities are members of the IIE Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis. Although the cycle for this fall 2014 semester is currently closed, it will re-open in the future. Students should check the online portal for updates at: www.iie.org/syriascholarships
I am currently enrolled in medical/dental/pharmacy school and would like to transfer my studies in the USA. Can I transfer?
In the USA, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and law school are all professional degrees that are NOT offered on the undergraduate level. Because of this difference in educational systems, it is not possible to transfer into medical, dental, pharmacy or law school. It might be possible to transfer to an undergraduate program, and complete a different major in another (similar) field. It is not likely that many credits would carry over, and this is something that would need to be discussed with the individual universities. Please note that there are no scholarship opportunities available for medical, dental, or pharmacy school for international students.
I already started university in Syria; how many classes will transfer? Will I have to start all over again?
After you apply, and if you are admitted, then each university will determine how many credits if any will transfer over by carefully looking at your transcripts. Sometimes, institutions might require you to get your transcripts evaluated by an outside agency. Providing the universities with a syllabus or course descriptions in addition to your transcripts could also be helpful.
All of the universities require the TOEFL or IELTS. However, I am unable to take it because of the crisis in Syria. Will the university waive this requirement?
The purpose of these tests is for the university to be able to evaluate your English language proficiency before admitting you. Universities need to make sure that your English is good enough in order for you to succeed in a U.S. classroom.
For Syrian students currently residing outside of Syria: These exams are available year-round in countries outside of Syria. You should register to take the next available TOEFL or IELTS exam in the country where you are currently residing. You can find information about test dates and registration info at: www.toefl.org or www.ielts.org
For Syrian students currently in Syria: The TOEFL PBT is offered in the ALTC in Damascus several times per year. To register for this exam, please contact the
ALTC at: 333-7936. Only the PBT test is available in Syria and universities in the USA will accept it.
I already started my studies in university in Syria, but I don’t mind starting over. Can I apply as a freshman?
If you completed any post-secondary work on the university level, you should apply as a transfer student.
I am unable to obtain original transcripts from the university, what should I do?
Some universities may initially accept scanned copies of your transcripts. However, an original or certified copy of your transcript will most probably be required from universities in order to make an official admissions decision and send you the appropriate forms for a visa. You will need at least scanned copies of your documents. You should work on obtaining these documents right away as this can take some time.
How do I apply for the visa since the US Embassy in Damascus has suspended operations?
In order to apply for the student visa, you must first have received an official admission letter from the university as well as the official I-20 form. Students living outside of Syria can apply in the US Embassy or consulate where they are currently residing. Students inside Syria can apply at the U.S. Embassies in Lebanon or Jordan. If you have received your I-20 form, and need guidance on the U.S. student visa application process, feel free to contact the EducationUSA Advisor for Syria at: firstname.lastname@example.org