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Find the American Universities That Are Right for You

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

With so many U.S. colleges and universities to choose from, the application process can be confusing. However, there are steps that you can take to create a list of American colleges that best suit you. It is best to start the entire college selection process about 16 months before the date you intend to enter college. This way, you’ll have enough time to research your many options.

For any U.S. college: First things first

Begin your search by looking for colleges in the U.S. that offer the type of degree you wish to pursue in the field that you wish to study. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to look a little more closely at each school. As you review your options, think about what’s most important to you. Things to consider include the type of college, its location, the costs involved, financial aid, entrance difficulty, housing options, availability of ESL programs, and library holdings.

Think carefully about the environment in which you’ll be most comfortable. For example, are you interested in an urban, suburban, or rural environment? Will you be comfortable on a large campus with thousands of students or would you prefer a smaller, more personal campus? Are you looking for particular climate conditions? Do you want to attend a school where there are special dorms for international students? These questions do not really have "right" answers—you should simply decide what’s important to you and look for schools that match.

Thoroughly review the details about each U.S. college you have chosen, and decide which of them best suit your wants and needs. After carefully considering the factors listed above, eliminate those schools that do not offer what you are looking for. From the remaining list, select seven to ten institutions to which you think you might want to apply.

Get more information about the American colleges that interest you

Next, write to the institutions you have chosen and request application materials, catalogs, and information about financial aid, housing, fields of study, etc. You can also get this information on the schools’ Web sites.

This is also a good time to find out what standardized admission tests are required by each school. Most schools require the SAT or ACT. In addition, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is generally required from international students who do not speak English as a native language. Register for these tests as soon as possible and have your test scores sent directly to each U.S.A. university.

Decide which U.S. colleges will receive your application

Review all the materials you receive, and reduce your list to three to five U.S. colleges. In doing so, you should consider the following:

  • The overall academic program
  • Specific course offerings
  • Information about the faculty members in your area of study
  • Academic facilities (libraries, computer labs, etc.)
  • The campus and surrounding community
  • Housing, financial aid, and ESL (if needed)
  • Extracurricular, cultural, and religious activities
  • Travel time and expense to and from the school

 

Once you have your final list, you’re ready to apply to one or more of the American universities you feel are right for you!

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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