7 Steps to Find Your Perfect US University
They say the US is the land of endless possibilities and since you’re reading this, you probably feel that too. But the problem that comes with these endless possibilities is that you will eventually need to make a choice.
There are over 4,500 US universities offering undergraduate degrees. Harvard, Stanford, MIT and Caltech are just a few of the big names international students dream about on a daily basis. Let’s assume you’re one of them and you’ve decided to make your dreams come true. How can you find your perfect US university when there are just so many great options to choose from?
1. Make sure you’ve identified your passions
Do not underestimate your intuition! Even if you’ve always been told that these kinds of decisions should be based on a rational analysis, you are going to spend your next three to six years studying your subject, so you need to make sure your heart is in the right place.
You’re probably planning to build a career in the field you choose to study, so your best option is to focus on what you are passionate about and then work out the rest of the details. You need to be honest and ask yourself if you really see yourself studying and building a career in the field you’ve chosen. If the answer is yes, you’ve already taken the most important step
2. Shortlist the best US universities in your subject
Now that you know what you subject you want to study in the US, you need to actually start searching. University rankings and subject-specific rankings can be very useful ways to find US universities that match your interests. You should also bear in mind that only US universities that are certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program are authorized to accept international students.
Make a shortlist of the institutions you are interested in and thoroughly research each one. Check university websites for official information, course prospectuses and even student forums for more ‘insider’ tips. Try to get in contact with alumni if you can. Their stories are important because they can give you an idea of how your future might turn out.
You can also make the most of social media channels to connect with universities, current students and alumni. Check out universities’ Facebook pages or Twitter accounts and see how they interact with students and the information they offer. LinkedIn university pages can also be useful, as you can check the students and alumni and see what careers they have entered. Of course, there is no general rule, but all of these outlets can help you find the best US universities for you.
3. Check the course content
Many students end up disappointed in their program because they haven’t checked the course content before applying to the university. Even if you really like the university as a whole, you may have a special interest in a particular part of your subject, and you should check to see whether this is covered in the curriculum on offer.
If you are not satisfied with the information you find or you just want more details, you can always contact the university directly. After all, the courses are what you will actually spend your time studying, and I can only assume that you want to find them interesting – both because this will make life more enjoyable, and because you’re likely to come out with better grades.
4. Consider the financial aspects
You need to do your research in order to estimate the cost of your studies at a US university and your ability to pay. According to a report by the student support organization, College Board, state college tuition fees are on an average of $22,958 for non-US students. This compares to an average of $31,231 at private non-profit colleges. To these costs, you would have to add transport, accommodation and other living expenses.
If you find out that some of the US universities you are interested in may be too expensive for you, that doesn’t mean that you have to cross them off the list. Most US universities offer financial aid packages that you could access if you are well-prepared and do not miss the deadline. There are also many scholarships to study in the US, often offered by individual universities, which you can research and apply for. In addition, you can also work part-time in order to support yourself or take up a loan. There are plenty of opportunities out there, you just need to start early and do your research.
5. Find out what student accommodation US universities offer
6. Decide where you want to study in the US
One of the important factors when choosing a US university is also the location. Yes, you dream about studying in the US, but each state and city has its own personality, unique culture, climate, economy, history and more. Some states are more popular among international students than others. Take a look at our state guides to help you gather more information and make your choice.
7. Attend university fairs, virtual events or online information sessions
To find out more about the US universities you are interested in, you may be lucky enough to be able to actually visit the US and check out the institutions in person. Alternatively, you could meet university representatives at university fairs in a city close to where you live. As an international student, online methods of communication can be especially helpful. We recommend that you attend virtual university fairs or online information sessions, such as the QS World University Tour #StudyinUSA virtual fair, where you can connect directly with university representatives and students right from your home.
As you can see, once you make a strong plan and focus on researching your best options, making your dream become reality doesn’t seem so complicated anymore. Good luck in your research!
This article was originally published in December 2015 . It was last updated in January 2020