How to Choose a College or University in the U.S.

Emmet Pierce
How to Choose a College or University in the U.S.

Earning a four-year degree in the U.S. may seem impossible for many international students because of the costs involved, but financial planning and careful school selection can help you achieve your goal. notes there are more than 3,000 colleges and universities in America from which you can choose. WorldTrips' Passport to American Education: A Simple Guide to International Student Financial Aid says that many U.S. schools are respected worldwide.

There are many highly-ranked U.S. schools that charge students much less than better-known Ivy League institutions. About half of U.S. college students in 2012-13 attended public and private colleges that cost less than $10,200 for tuition and fees, according to the nonprofit College Board.

Accreditation and reputation are very important, as well. Most international students want to earn a degree in the U.S. to improve their ability to compete for jobs at home, says Donna Lubrano, a former admissions counselor for the Hult International Business School MBA Program.


Find a School You're Comfortable With

Some international students enjoy a small-town campus atmosphere. Others seek the cultural opportunities that come with attending school in a large city. Make sure you understand the character of your college or university before you make a final selection.

Lisa Parmley, founder of the website, says many schools have a mix of students from foreign cultures, while others lack that diversity. U.S. News reported on the U.S. colleges and universities with the highest percentages of international students in the 2014-15 academic year.

Topping the list were:

  • Florida Institute of Technology, 33%
  • New School (New York City), 32%
  • Illinois Institute of Technology, 30%

According to U.S. News, "schools with a strong global presence often have a wealth of cultural groups and events, allowing international students an opportunity to share their food, music and traditions with their U.S. peers." International students may also benefit from a large foreign community when trying to acclimate to American life.

how to choose a college in the u.s.

Going to school where you won't be taught in your native language can be challenging. Students who need help with their English skills can choose a school that has programs designed to improve English fluency, says Lubrano. Before selecting a school, she recommends asking if faculty members are accustomed to working with international students.

Preparation is important. Learn more about the challenges you may face as an international student in the U.S.— and find solutions!


Total Costs: How to Choose a School That Fits Your Budget

As an international student, it's important for you to keep monthly expenses in mind as you investigate U.S. educational opportunities. Your costs will include food and lodging, tuition, health insurance, books and supplies, personal expenses, and transportation.

The Federal Student Aid website suggests that you closely review your sources of income. Your income may come from such things as working, contributions from family members, financial aid, scholarships, grants, work-study programs, or loans.

Once you know your monthly income, you can compare it with the monthly expenses you'll face at various colleges and universities.

Be sure to check out the " The Best Ways to Make Studying in the U.S. Affordable!"


Find Financial Aid and Scholarships

Many U.S. schools offer financial support to international students. Nearly 345 ranked U.S. colleges offered financial aid to 50 or more international undergraduates during the 2012-2013 academic year, with the average scholarship reaching $17,721, according to U.S. News - World Report.


how to choose a college in the u.s.


Here are the 10 U.S. schools that provided the most support:

  1. The University of Chicago
  2. Williams College
  3. Yale University
  4. Skidmore College
  5. Harvard University
  6. Amherst College
  7. Wesleyan University
  8. Stanford University
  9. Trinity College
  10. Dartmouth College


Resources: Finding Information to Help You Study in America

Don't be afraid to seek guidance in choosing a U.S. school to attend. points out that the U.S. has advising centers, EducationUSA offices, and Fulbright Commission offices in many countries that can help you make the right choice. Also, your home country may co-sponsor a bi-national center with the U.S. government.

The internet has a wealth of information for international students. Here are some websites that specialize in helping international students who want to study in the United States:

  • connects you with the U.S. Department of State's network of more than 400 international student advising centers in over 170 countries.
  • connects international students with English-language programs.
  • was created to meet the needs of foreign students who wish to study in the U.S.
  • provides advice to international students about how to find the right school.
  • helps students connect with American universities and English language programs.
  • links international students with business schools, postgraduate departments, and employers.

Remember, it can take a long time to identify the best school for you. Give yourself plenty of time to gather all the information you need. 

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