One of the most important decisions in your educational life is to decide where you are going to study. This article is the first of the “Study in USA” series. In this series, we will help you make that decision by taking you to visit major Cities and Universities around the U.S.

As an introduction, this article takes a look at a few important factors that can affect your life depending on where you choose to study. You should weigh different factors depending on your goals and interests. Here is a list of factors that many students consider:

1. Ranking

A school’s rank, overall or specifically in your field, is a good indication of the quality of education you would receive if you went to school there. However, there are a few things that you should know about ranking methods:

  • The overall ranking does not mean that the institution is reputable in every specific field. If you are attending a graduate school, we strongly recommend that you look at program-specific rankings instead of overall rankings.
  • Ranking does not guarantee success in your education and professional life. Your success can be affected by many other things such as your motivation, your professor, and your school’s environment.
  • School’s rankings are not always objective. Quite a few complaints have been made about the ranking systems. Some people feel that the weighting of the criteria is somewhat arbitrary. How can we objectively say that faculty to student ratio is more or less important than average SAT score of students whom are admitted?
  • Not all criteria are considered in schools’ rankings. For instance, campus safety is never included in the rankings. You can attend the one of the top schools in the country, but if you don’t feel safe on campus, you may want to transfer to another college.
Tip: Some students get into a highly ranked colleges by applying to the less well-known departments as freshmen. Later on, they transfer into a different, more prestigious department.

2. Location

Location encompasses a few factors that can affect your life in the U.S., so you should think seriously about location while you consider a particular school in that location.

Tip: Click here to take a free, 10-minute quiz to find out what cities in America best match your preferences in terms of climate, culture, recreation, and education. Every recommended place comes with a colorful online report with great information.

Job: The job market is closely related to location. Studying in a university located near an industry related to your major will improve your chances of finding a job. If you want to get a computer-related job, you should consider going to school near Silicon Valley in California. If you want a job in the entertainment industry (movies, music, or TV), there is no question that Los Angeles is a good place to study. New York city is highly concentrated with companies in the finance, security, and publishing industries. The oil industry which employs a lot of chemical engineers, and geologists is mainly in Texas and Alaska.

Tip: Get a head start on U.S. job information for foreign students by visiting our Career center.

Friends and food: a lot of students want to be close to friends or relatives in America. Certain regions have high concentrations of international population (e.g., Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Seattle). For example, there are large China Towns in New York and San Francisco. In Los Angeles, there are Korean Town, Thai Town, and little Saigon. A large hispanic population also reside in Houston and Southern California. If you live near those areas, it will be easier for you to find food and products from overseas.

Weather and disaster: America is such a large country that different regions can have very different climates. Nevada and Arizona are mainly dessert. Hawaii and Florida have warm, humid weather most of the year. Winter in Minnesota could get as cold as -30 degree Fahrenheit (-35 C).

Natural disasters are also region-specific. California is prone to earthquakes while the Northeastern States (e.g., New York, Maine) have experienced several deadly blizzards in the last few decades. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina (and a few other southern states) also encounter hurricanes quite often.

Tip: Visit the Weather Channel for average and record temperature of cities around the U.S.

Discrimination: unfortunately, racial discrimination exists in many parts of the world and America is not an exception. Most of the time, if you study in large metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, the chances of facing discrimination are relatively small. However, in certain parts of the country such as the Southern States, there are more reports of discrimination.

3. Professors

The quality of faculty is one of the key factors in determining the academic quality of the school. Another variable is the ratio of faculty per student. If this number is too low, you may not be able to seek personal advice or interact with professors as often as you wish. The ratio is also a good indicator of the average class size.

If you are a Ph.D. student, you need to be particularly picky about the faculty. Since the dissertation process requires close supervision from a faculty advisor, you should choose a school with faculty that has similar research interests to yours.

Tip: The best way to find out about the quality of faculty in a particular school is to talk to experts or alumni and students from your field.

4. Cost

Though it is not always the case, private schools are generally more expensive than public schools. However, don’t remove a school from your list simply because it’s expensive. You may be able to find financial assistance or scholarships later.

  • Check out our Finance Center for scholarships for foreign students.
  • Click here to get an idea how much does it cost to study in the U.S.
Tip: There are actually advantages to attending expensive schools. First, when applying to expensive schools, there tend to be fewer candidates to compete with since fewer students can afford them. Second, you may have a better chance to network with affluent students at those schools.

I hope we help you to have a better idea about choosing your location. Write us if you have any questions or feedback. Next week, the next article in this series will introduce Boston, the student capital of the U.S.