Choosing the Right School

Before deciding on which schools, universities, or colleges you would like to apply to, you need to do a good amount of research. Our web site lists universities, schools and colleges for international students. We suggest you take the time to find the right school that meets your needs.

You should eventually select between 10 and 20 schools to contact and ask for information. You can also click here to have several of the best colleges and universities in the US contact you directly with the information you need to help you make a decision.

If it is at all possible, plan a visit to the US and take a tour of some schools. Try to schedule your visit during a time when classes are in session to allow you to meet some of the professors and the students. Also be sure to meet with one of the international student advisors who will be able to tell you what services the school offers to international students.

There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the US, and each can provide you with a unique educational experience. With so many choices, deciding which schools are best for you can be difficult. No matter what college you pick, Harvard, Yale, Gwynedd Mercy University, the most important factor when deciding what college to go to is your happiness. The following criteria are among the most important that you need to consider when deciding which school you would like to attend.

Find a school near you

Academic requirements

Find out what are the schools minimum academic requirements for admission. These will include grades as well as test scores (such as TOEFL score). Even if you meet the minimum requirements, it may still be very difficult to be accepted if the school is very competitive. Find out how many students are accepted as a percentage of the number of students who apply. What are the average grades and test scores for students who have been accepted, and how to those compare with yours? Remember that less famous schools can sometimes provide a better education (depending on your field of study) than more popular schools. If you limit your selection to only well-known and competitive schools, your chances of being accepted somewhere will be significantly lower.

Course of study

If you know what course of study (or major) you want to pursue, you need to choose a school that offers that course of study. You will also want to know how strong that school is in that program. Ways of determining the academic strength of a particular program include the number of students enrolled in the program, the size of the faculty, and whether that program is offered both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. You may also be able to find out some personal information about the professors in that department, such as how many have doctorate degrees (PhD's), how many articles they have published, and whether they have won any awards in their field. If you do not yet know what major you would like to pursue, refer to the section What to study.


It is very important to choose a school that has been accredited. US colleges and universities are not regulated by the government. Instead, accrediting organizations, which are approved by the government, define minimum standards of education and then certify whether a school's academic program meets those standards. If a school meets the standards, then it is called "accredited." By attending a school that is accredited, you can be sure that your degree will be recognized by other schools (should you want to pursue an advanced degree) and by employers.


The total cost of your education will include more than just the tuition, fees, and room and board that are charged by the school. You will also need to estimate how much you will spend on books, supplies, and personal living expenses (such as entertainment, transportation, and telephone bills). Another large expense is the cost of travel to and from your home country. Sometimes living in a big city can be more expensive than living in a small town, particularly if you will be living off the school campus. Remember to calculate the total cost for the entire length of your education. Keep in mind that most schools raise their tuition by a small percentage every year. For help in figuring the cost of your education, refer to Calculating costs.


A country as large as the United States can offer a variety of living environments. Remember that where you choose to go to school will determine where you will be living for approximately the next four years of your life. Choosing the right environment will help make that time much more enjoyable. Consider what type of climate you prefer. Do you like to live in a big city, or in a more rural location? How close will you be to an airport for trips back to your home country?

The most popular states for international students are California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Florida and Texas. But even within each of these states, you can choose from a variety of living experiences. For more information on this topic, refer to the Life in the USA section.

Student population

Consider the size of the student population and the average number of students in a classroom. Also consider the number of male and female students, the number of international students, and whether the school has a predominant ethnic, racial, or religious group. You may also want to consider the proportion of undergraduate to graduate students. Make sure that you will be comfortable with the students around you before deciding if the school is right for you.

Another important factor is the number of international students at the school. You may feel more comfortable if there are others at the school who have gone through the same experience as you. You can also use these students as resources to help you get adapted more easily to life in the US. In addition, schools with a larger population of international students are likely to have more services and activities for those students.


Consider the sports and extracurricular activities that you enjoy. The school may either provide you with access to that activity (such as a theater group or tennis courts), or it may be situated close to a place where that activity is offered (such as a public swimming pool or golf course). What clubs and activities are available at the school? If you find some that match your interests, try to find out more about them, such as how popular they are with students and how long they have been in existence.

Regular or Online Campus

Students from all over the world now also have the option of earning their degree online at one of the many online universities and online colleges. Click here for a list of online universities offering bachelor's degree online.