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Choosing An American University

Choosing a university or college to study at in the U.S is difficult. With over 4,000 institutions to pick from, how do you narrow down the best choices for you? Our guide will help you make informed decisions on where to study for your degree in America.

Do your homework

You should start searching for potential U.S universities or colleges you might like to attend about 18 months before beginning your studies, as it can take some time to complete the application process.

First, you should have a good idea what course(s) you would like to study, plus a rough idea of where in the U.S you would like to be located (e.g. east or west, coast or mainland, temperate or warmer climate, etc.)

The best place to find out more information on particular institutions is their website. Most universities and colleges have a section dedicated to international students. This should provide information on student life, accommodation, the admissions process, entry requirements and more.

Factors to consider

Academic excellence

First of all, be sure the courses provided by the institution are of high quality, with an excellent standard of teaching. Find out if they are accredited by governmental agencies, as this provides a certain guarantee of quality.

International student support

It’s worth investigating how good the course is for international students by seeing if the institution has an International Student Program Director, help with housing, an orientation to the university, city and American education system, as well as advice services specifically for international students. In other words, make sure that help will always be there when you need it.

A good course will also provide opportunities to meet American students and will offer social events and an opportunity to get involved in student activities.

Location

Look at a map on the internet to see exactly where the institution is located and investigate the area it is in. Consider whether it is a place you would like to live for a prolonged period of time, and the sort of cultural and social activities it offers. Would you prefer to live in a large urban city, or somewhere in a more rural setting?

Think about what the weather is like there – you may want to avoid places that are too rainy or warm! Find out if your accommodation will be on the campus, and if not, how good the transportation links are.

Cost

You will also need to take into account financial considerations, as study in the U.S is expensive and the amount can vary greatly from institution to institution. Check that the cost is reasonable for the program you receive – although some private colleges are very expensive, you will receive an excellent service.

Some community colleges are less expensive, but still offer a great service. Many American and international students who want a university degree attend the first two years at a community college with lower costs and easier admission policies, and then transfer for their last two years at a four year university.  Look at the costs carefully to make sure you are getting value for your money.

Funding

Unfortunately, there is very little financial aid available from U.S sources for international students.

International student scholarships are very difficult to obtain, and therefore the majority of international students in America must rely almost entirely on themselves and their relatives for funding.

Although there are many universities in the US that provide financial aid and international student scholarships to international students, this aid is normally limited and is often more accessible to graduate than undergraduate students.

Furthermore, competition for international student scholarships and aid is fierce, and institutions are careful to only help the most deserving international students.

Good grades and exam scores are extremely important in securing an international student scholarship, as they are only awarded to those with an outstanding academic record.

Find out whether any of the universities that you would like to apply to have grants, loans or scholarships for international students. Topuniversities.com has a great section that lists all international scholarships available for American universities.

If they don’t, and you have not been able to obtain enough funding on your own, you may have to consider other universities that will help.

You can read more on funding your higher education in the U.S in our finance section.

Further research

For more information on choosing an American university, please see our Choosing A College section over at Studential.com/us.

If you have any friends or relatives who have studied in the U.S, it’s worth talking to them to find out about their experiences, and what advice they can offer you in choosing a place to study.

It’s important to research universities and colleges carefully so you choose the ones that will meet your needs and interests – spending time and effort on choosing an institution can ensure you have a successful and rewarding experience.

If you can not find all the information you require about a particular institution on their website, contact them and ask for it.