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Six questions to ask yourself before selecting your university in the U.S.

You have decided to study abroad and attend college in the United States. With more than 4000 degree-granting institutions to choose from, you may wonder if it matters which university you pick. Will they all offer flexibility, access to a wide variety of subjects, and valuable opportunities? Probably. But choosing the right college means you get the right opportunities for you.

Do you need to go to a top-ranking school?

Not necessarily. College rankings are based on many factors. Just because a university is ranked in the top ten, doesn’t mean it’s the right university for you. Top-ranked schools tend to be much more expensive. They offer limited spots for international students. You should not base your college decision making process on rankings alone.

What should you consider when choosing a university?

The most important thing to consider when choosing a university is whether its degrees, programs, atmosphere, and opportunities fit your needs. Your best-fit university is a place where you can feel comfortable and supported while you work toward your degree. It meets your needs and expectations by offering the right mix of program, support, location, and opportunities at a price that fits your budget.

Before you can decide if a university is the right fit, you first need to decide what you want to get out of your college experience. Here are some points to consider:

1. What do you want to study?

Every university offers a different mix of subjects and degree programs. Knowing what you want to study and what type of degree you’re working toward can help you narrow down your choices immediately.

2. What is your budget?

Tuition, room and board, and fees all vary depending on the university. A university may meet all of your other criteria, but still be outside your budget. Fortunately, there are many schools to choose from in the United States, so you’ll almost certainly find one that meets your needs and budget.

3. Do you want a big school or a small school?

A big school means more people, a more diverse range of programs, and potentially, more activities on campus. Meanwhile, a small school usually offers smaller class sizes and the opportunity to build close relationships with classmates and teachers. Consider which size of school better meets your needs and temperament.

4. Do you want to be in the country or the city?

Will the hustle and bustle of city life make you feel energized or overwhelmed? Will being surrounded by nature be boring or peaceful? Going to college in the city means there’s always something to do off campus and you can use public transportation. The country is likely to be quieter, with more opportunities for outdoor activities. Decide which environment would make you most comfortable and choose your university accordingly.

5. Would you prefer to be in a specific region of the country?

The United States is a large country and each region has its own character, culture, and climate. Northern states have changing seasons, while many southern states offer warm weather all year round. The eastern states are home to many of the oldest colleges in the country, while the western states are known for being progressive. Sports, especially football, are a major part of college life in the southwest. Universities tend to reflect the culture of their region.

6. Are there any clubs or organizations you want to be a part of?

While not the most important consideration, clubs and organizations can make a difference to your college experience. If you feel strongly about becoming a member of a school-based organization, make sure your college has that option, or be prepared to start the first branch at that university.

Finally, make sure that the university you choose is international student-friendly. While many universities in the United States welcome international students, some have better support systems and international student services than others. Ask about the types of support the university will offer you from application through graduation.

For help choosing your best fit university, contact an education counselor.