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Choosing a School

It's one thing for a school to have a good reputation, but that doesn't guarantee that it's the right school for you.
After all, what if California is too sunny for you?

Attending school in America

  • What Criteria are Important to You in Choosing a University?

    Balancing what you are looking for in a school with what that school is looking for in an applicant can be tricky. Several critical factors may influence a student's choice about which school to attend. The following organizations provide assistance in the search for graduate schools that fit your needs:
    - U.S. Department of Education
    - The College Board
    - Peterson's Guide
    - CollegeNet

    The rank of a school is an important factor in many students' decisions. Click here to view undergraduate university  or graduate rankings. While a school's numerical rank is important, you should also consider the quality of your field's department at each school you are considering. Is the department large enough to accommodate your needs? Does it have professors who specialize in your specific interests in the field? A good way to judge that is by checking journal articles those professors have published, to see if the topics they covered match your interests.

  • Your Financial Status

    Your economic situation will play a large role in your decision to pursue any college degree in the U.S. Public universities are generally the least expensive options, but they distinguish between in-state and out-of-state tuition, and you will have to pay the higher out-of-state rate. Private colleges and universities cost about the same as the out-of-state rates at more expensive public schools. Graduate school usually costs as much or more than the most expensive undergraduate private institutions, so keep in mind that you might incur a lot of debt while attending school in America. You must decide if a degree will be worth what you are paying for it. Will you earn enough later on to be able to pay off any student loans that you might take out?

  • What is the University Looking for in Applicants?

    Keep in mind that the university that is most attractive to you may not be one for which you qualify. Many people want to attend Harvard but only a few of the most qualified candidates actually obtain admission! Because it is more difficult for international students than it is for American students to gain admission to American universities, it is a good idea to apply to about 5-10 schools in order to improve your chances of being accepted somewhere. Research which schools are the best fit for you based on an honest appraisal of your qualifications, including grades, test scores, and recommendations. Most of your efforts should be focused on those schools which best fit your student profile, though you can also apply to a few top schools (they may say "yes"), and a few lower-ranked schools, or "safety schools," to be certain you will gain admission somewhere.

  • Making the Decision to Attend Graduate School in the United States

    After completing your four-year undergraduate degree, you might opt to continue your education in the United States by attending graduate school. American universities are recognized worldwide for their high caliber and excellent reputations. Whether you are pursuing a Master's degree, or a Ph.D., or planning to attend law school, business school, or medical school, graduate school can be extremely expensive, and academically rigorous.

  • The Atmosphere of Graduate School

    Graduate school is usually much more stressful than college, and a lot of determination is needed to complete a graduate degree. The drop-out rate is high. Also, the social atmosphere of graduate school is very different than that of college--often, students are more serious and have less time to enjoy themselves. Many students may live off-campus, and therefore on-campus activities (and socializing) are limited.

  • Other Influences on Your Decision

    • Perhaps you want to attend a school that friends or family members have recommended, or are currently attending. Carefully weigh whether or not their opinions are relevant to your particular educational needs.
    • Maybe geographic location is important to you. Living in a big city with lots of variety and larger international populations may be an attractive option, but it can also be quite expensive. Schools in less populated areas can be more peaceful and safer, and living expenses are generally lower.
    • Climate could also be a deciding factor: perhaps you prefer warm weather to cold or a dry climate to a rainy one.
    • You might want to choose a school where there is a large international student population, particularly of your nationality. Perhaps in such a place you would feel more at home, having a lot of contact with other students from your country.
    • Or you might want to locate yourself in the midst of a strong job market. Some regions are popular recruiting sites for companies in certain fields, for instance, computer technology in Northern California's Silicon Valley.

  • The Campus Visit

    The best way to ascertain a school's suitability is by scheduling a campus visit. When visiting, you are better able to measure the less tangible aspects of a university: the social atmosphere, your comfort-level there, and everyday student life. Equally important is a visit to your department, during which you can gain valuable insight into what your educational experience will be like if you attend that school, and you can speak to your potential professors. You can ask them specific questions, and impress them with your knowledge! Visiting a campus is expensive, so if such a visit is not possible, try to contact alumni of the school and ask for their advice and opinions.

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Important US Official Links:
1) SEVIS is a government, computerized system that maintains and manages data about foreign students and exchange visitors during their stay in the United States. More info >>
2) U.S. Customs - Department of State


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