Choosing A University in the USA
Choosing the actual university or college you will study at in the U.S is probably one of the most influential decisions you will make about this journey.
It is important that you choose an institution that fits you the best. You will spend a lot of time here and ultimately this experience will guide your career.
There are of course many factors that influence your decision.
You may have friends, family members etc. that have given you information about possible universities, but remember it is always an individual decision since you will be the student that has to have the experience there.
As you look at all the universities and colleges that appeal to you, think about the following:
1. Academic Program
This really should be the number one focus since you are spending your time, energy and funds here. For example, if you are interested in engineering programs then choose a university that has a solid and prestigious engineering program.
Don’t just choose a university because it is a party school or has a cool campus - choose it based on academics.
Also, for example, if you are still a bit undecided about mechanical versus electrical engineering, but the university has a solid engineering program this is still a step in the right direction.
It is always possible to change your major, so you always want to look at academic programs as your base.
Cost is always an important point to keep in mind. How do you plan to fund your education?
You may have funding secured for your first year, but what about your subsequent years? It is important to be realistic about the challenges that cost can have. Yet, it is also important to weigh the advantages of the possible economic solutions.
3. Location of campus
Is the campus near or far from your home town? In state or out of state? Are you comfortable with distance between you and your family and friends?
These are natural points to going to university, but really need to be considered. You may not have easy access to your loved ones while at university.
It is typical to get homesick, so discuss this with your family and chart out a plan to keep in touch. Also, will you have transportation? Will you have a car to move about the city or visit home if possible?
Try to attend an open event if possible, so you can take a look around, and see whether you like the area it is based in. It will also give you the chance to ask any questions you may have about the campus, and what's nearby.
4. City environment
This will now be your home away from home. It is natural to feel homesick, but soon you will adjust, as will your interests in the city environment.
Besides your school work, do you prefer a fast paced life style or slow paced life style?
Whether you realize it or not, you will become part of your new city and it will be an opportunity to become part of the community.
If you come from a small city and move to a big city or vice versa there will always be some element of culture shock.
Do some research on the city and what it has to offer. At some point you will have some free time to explore and in the city.
Again, try to go to an open event at the college if possible, as seeing it firsthand will give you a good idea of whether you will like studying there.
5. Greek life
How important is it to you to be part of a Fraternity or Sorority? Has this always been your dream?
Realize that you may want to join one these societies, but they also have their own separate entry process. There is no guarantee that you will be asked to join one of them.
Don’t forget there is another financial aspect to joining one of these societies. Consider how you would feel still attending the school, but not being part of a direct part of Greek life.
Yet, there will still be a presence on campus and you will be able to support some Greek campus activities even if you are not a member of a Fraternity or Sorority.
Jot down some notes on all of the above points, and you'll be on your way to choosing the best colleges for you, or at the very least, reducing your options to a more manageable number.
6. College rankings
Although it's tempting to only want to apply to the best colleges, try not to set too much store by the various college rankings you will find published around the internet. Yes, while it is interesting to see what are considered the best places to study, they might not be the best places for you as an individual.
Applying to only the colleges in the top 10 might be unrealistic anyway, so it's best to do your research, and see which colleges fulfil the criteria above, rather than look at which ones are doing best in the league tables.
If you wish to know more, please see the 2019 College Rankings.
For more tips and advice on applying to college, please see: