For student related information, visit the EducationUSA website created by the Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to learn about educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate study, opportunities for scholars, financial aid, testing, admissions, and much more. For a brief overview, visit the America.gov article Basics on U.S. Visas.
The first step for a prospective nonimmigrant student is being accepted for enrollment in an established school which is SEVP certified. In general, for academic students attending a university, college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory or other academic institutions, including a language training program, an F visa is the appropriate category. For students attending vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions, other than a language training program, an M visa is generally the appropriate category.
If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study that is recreational, and the course is less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so on a visitor (B) visa. If your course of study is 18 hours or more a week, you will need a student visa. When traveling to the U.S. to attend seminars, conferences or a program of study for academic credit then you will need a student visa.
An F1 visa is issued to international students who are attending an academic program or English Language Program at a US collge or university. F-1 students must maintain the minimum course load for full-time student status. They can remain in the US up to 60 days beyond the length of time it takes to complete their academic program.