You know you want to study in the United States, but how do you get started? There are over 2,000 higher education institutions and more than 1,000 language centers. Do a quick search in Google and you’ll get an overwhelming number of hits. How do you know which is the best option for you?
From my experience as an international student and an admissions professional, I learned that the following five points are a great way to start your search.
1. Know your goals
Evaluating your goals and objectives for studying in the US should be your first step. Is your primary goal to further your education or language skills? Do you wish to improve your career prospects and job opportunities? Or simply, do you want to have a life experience outside your home country? No matter what your goals are, these will help refine your school choices.
The cost of studying in the United States was the most important factor for me, and I imagine it’s also most important for many of you. While tuition cost is a crucial factor for you to consider, cost of living matter too.
The United States is a massive country. You can find all kinds of institutions located all over its territory. Usually, more expensive but higher ranked universities are located in urban areas, where the cost of living is higher.
If your finances are tight, fortunately, there are plenty of more affordable , yet high-quality institutions that are located in suburban or even rural locations. Keeping an open mind is important when searching for an institution in the USA.
Do you want to be in a big, medium, or small city? Do you prefer urban or a rural setting? Do you enjoy hot or cold weather? The United States has so much variety that you can find a good institution in whatever setting you like.
In some regions the weather can have drastic changes — cold winters and hot summers, such as in the northern part — or milder changes, such as in the south. Knowing what you’re looking for will help narrow down your choices.
Something to have in mind is that while location can be an important factor, it shouldn’t be the primary one. Being in a big city is exciting and attractive, but it can be harsh on you and your family’s budget. But if finances are not an issue, then the United States gives you a huge variety to choose from.
Some people study in the U.S. to improve their English, and some want to pursue a degree. Some want to do both. You don’t have to make that decision right away.
If your English is not as proficient as you would like, a language course would be a good starting point. Later, you can decide if you want to stay longer. Both language centers and higher education institutions are options to explore.
I suggest doing an ESL (English as a Second Language) course in a higher education institution (Community College, University) as most of them offer room and board, state of the art facilities, and courses of excellent quality, as many of them will fall under the university certification. It’ll make the transition from your home country to a new environment more pleasant.
In addition, doing your ESL course at a higher education institution has a host of other benefits. You can learn more about the institution, the American education system, what it’s like to be an undergraduate international student, meet other local and international students, and get to know the culture of the university that you may someday be a part of.
5. Degrees Offered
Similar to the courses criteria, you should consider what you want to major in. If you took one of the English proficiency tests and you score meets the English requirements for admission, you could apply directly to an undergraduate program. Therefore, you need to find an institution that offers the major you wish to pursue.
If you require an ESL course first, you should verify that the high education institution offers your major. However, you can also transfer to a different university after meeting the English proficiency requirements if the school doesn’t have your major of choice.
Keep in mind, however, that some English proficiency test results taken in a particular ESL course are only valid for that university’s admissions. Make sure you ask your international admissions advisor about this.
There are many other factors that you might consider when making your choice, such as university rankings, peer reviews, athletics division, etc. But from my experience the knowing your goals, cost, location, courses, and degrees offered are a great way to start your journey to study in the United States.
Remember, it is also very important that you talk to your parents about your decision. Find out their thoughts about the location and costs. Sharing your idea with them is very important before making your decision. Once you have defined your priorities, you can begin to look at specific schools. Then, at last, the application process begins.