International Student Expectations

Congratulations on your admission to Grand Valley State University! We look forward to meeting you, and hope you are excited to come to the United States and study at Grand Valley.

We understand that studying in a foreign country might seem overwhelming for you. We are here to help make this transition easier for you. We also realize that things at Grand Valley might be different than what you are used to and felt it necessary to share our expectations for you as a GVSU student. Your success is of the upmost importance to us and this website should lay the foundation for that success.


Academic Expectations

You will find our academic programs to be rigorous and to challenge your intellectual growth. You can expect to learn in a variety of ways from our faculty. GVSU has a strong focus on writing across the curriculum and students should expect to:

  • Work on group projects.
  • Prepare reports.
  • Present on a variety of topics.
  • Conduct research.
  • Be assessed weekly in every course.
GVSU student working on his computer in Henry Hall

Academic Resources

 GVSU also provides opportunities for you to improve your academic skills through resources, such as:

All of these resources are included in your tuition!

Expected Costs and Paying Your Bills

Life in the U.S. is expensive, life in Michigan is no different. You should expect that your first month here will be the most costly, as you learn your new routine, adjust to food and other cultural differences, and make new friends.

  • Expect to pay close to $700.00 a semester on textbooks alone. You will find that at GVSU it is an expectation to own your own textbooks. 
  • GVSU estimates that you will spend approximately $100.00 a week while you are here, on things other than tuition and rent. 
  • The first month will probably cost you more than double of what you are budgeting for food and other necessities as you start your life here. 

This may seem exorbitant to you before you have arrived, but it isn't unrealistic. 

To save money, you may want to;

  • plan to prepare your own food,
  • do your own grocery shopping,
  • shop for clothes and other necessities at resale stores,
  • volunteer with our campus garden,
  • and ride the bus as your primary source of transportation.

You will be expected to pay your tuition and any other associated fees each semester at GVSU. Your fees will be applied to your account after you have registered for your courses.

So remember...

Needs to be paid on time
Expect $700
For Textbooks
Plan for $100 Per Week
In addition to rent and textbooks

Tuition Payment Process

You will be able to access your student bill through "myBanner" when you log into the GVSU system. (Your log in information was mailed to you). Your account will continually be updated as you add courses, housing, meal plans, health insurance and other fees. Please check it regularly and be prepared to pay prior to the first day of classes. If you have questions about charges, the Student Accounts office is available to assist you. They may be reached by email at: [email protected].

Payment is accepted via; Western Union, Credit Card, Debit Card, Money Order, Bank Draft, or Cash.

Paying through Western Union can be a tricky process. Visit our Western Union page to learn more.

Visit Our Western Union Payment Page

Financial Aid and Scholarship

Your academic journey has prepared you for many successes. Students are frequently qualified for scholarships from non-GVSU parties. All international students admitted for Fall Semester to GVSU are considered for scholarship. We encourage you to do your research for any opportunities that may be available in addition to the scholarships below.

There are two scholarships available specifically for international students:

  1. Awarded prior to enrolling at GVSU, your application essay and activities is what we use to make the decision.
  2. In January, there is a scholarship competition for  returning international students. 

International Student Employment

Many international students choose to work to support their studies. 

Some students will work on campus to earn extra income, while others will work in off-campus internships to increase their understanding of their chosen field of study. Federal regulations restrict your employment to either on-campus, or in limited circumstances, off-campus internships. GVSU has many on-campus work opportunities available. Most are listed at

Applying early for positions is helpful. The Padnos International Center will assist you in applying for a United States Social Security Number during your orientation. You will need this number in order to receive payment from any employer. Additionally, you may seek advice from the Padnos International Center on off campus internships required by your program.

Graduate Student Assistantships

Earning an Assistantship

Graduate Students are eligible to be considered for Graduate Assistantships, which are usually awarded by the month of July. These are highly sought after by all graduate students and are extremely competitive. Graduate Assistantships are not guaranteed. You must earn them.

Before seeking an assistantship, consider the following:

  • Since assistantships are highly competitive, we recommend you make early contact with faculty members.
  • Focus on your academic interests at GVSU rather than your financial interests.
  • Faculty are looking for students that have skills particular to each assistantship, be prepared to demonstrate or speak to these skills.
  • Set yourself apart by sharing experiences you have, such as labs, projects, research, etc.

If you are not selected, it is important to keep in touch with your faculty member. They will assist you with other opportunities for research, conference presentations, and future assistantships. 

It is rare to secure a GA without having completed coursework at GVSU. Students must demonstrate their ability to succeed in the classroom on campus before being given the responsibilities associated with being a GA.

Find Out More About Being A Graduate Assistant

Housing and Living in Michigan

As an incoming GVSU student, you will need to secure your own place to live. GVSU has many housing options and the benefits of living on campus are many. Visit our Live On website to learn about these benefits.

Should you want to live in GVSU housing, you will need to apply by: (please select Incoming Transfer/Graduate)

  • July 1 (for the Fall Semester)
  • November 1 (for the Winter Semester). 

International students at GVSU frequently live in Laker Village, Murray, and the South Apartments if they live on campus. 

Should you want to live off campus, you should know Grand Rapids is a city with many college students. Affordable housing options are usually full by by mid-July. It is best to do your research ahead of time to secure housing. Contracts are typically for 12 months. Websites such as: or may be helpful in your search. 

On-campus apartment style housing at GVSU

Preparing For Four Seasons

Michigan is a northern state, and you should plan to be prepared for our four seasons!  Each season is glorious in its own way, but the season that many international students are unfamiliar with is winter. It gets very cold with an average temperature of -1 degree, Celsius in January. Plus, due to our proximity to Lake Michigan, we also experience what is called “Lake Effect Weather”, which means that we get a lot of snow.

We do promise, though, to heat our buildings! Studying in the Mary Idema Pew library by the big fireplace is lovely.  You will learn to wear many layers of clothing, as well as warm hats, mittens, coats, and boots.

Please bring or be prepared to purchase plenty of these things so you can stay comfortable during our coldest months!

Allendale campus in the winter

Tips for Traveling to the U.S.

Traveling is exciting and overwhelming. When leaving your home country for the U.S., please consider the following eight items to make your transition easier.

  1. Assure your family and friends you will make contact within 48 hours of your arrival to the U.S.
  2. Travel with your passport (and your U.S. Visa) as well as your immigration documents with you on the plane, not in your checked luggage.
  3. For your initial arrival to Grand Valley, plan to fly all the way to the Gerald R Ford Airport (code: GRR).
  4. You will pass through border patrol and customs at an airport prior to the GRR Airport. If there are any problems with your arrival at the border, you should contact the Padnos International Center. 
  5. A phone number will be emailed to you for after-hours emergencies closer to the arrival time.
  6.  Immigration allows you to enter 30 days prior to the date on your immigration documents, however, GVSU only allows you to move onto campus on specific days.
  7. As part of the mandatory international student orientation, we do provide airport pickups from the Grand Rapids airport. For Fall 2018, we will be greeting students on August 17, 18, and 19th. 
  8. We will either take you to your on-campus housing assignment, your previously arranged off-campus apartment, or the Holiday Inn Hotel in Downtown Grand Rapids (at your expense). GVSU is not able to provide temporary housing.

Please contact [email protected] with questions or visit the PIC website.

Page last modified March 11, 2019