Ten Tips for Choosing an American College or University for International Students

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1. Limit your search
There are over 2,000 institutions in the U.S., so limiting your search can give you a better chance of getting admitted. It will also save you a lot of time and confusion. Decide whether you want to study on the east coast or the west coast or areas where the climate is more familiar to you. This is also an important consideration when cost is concerned.

Tuition costs are much higher in big, popular cities like Boston, Los Angeles and New York while costs are much more affordable in minor cities or those located in the south. Some of the more popular cities for international students are New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts and California.

2. More schools, better chance
If you are seriously considering pursuing a college degree in the U.S., you should get as much information as you can, from at least 5 colleges if you’re targeting living in just one state or from at least 10 if you have no particular state in mind. Admission requirements in American schools are very competitive and in most cases, very stringent. Applying at as many schools as you can will give you a better chance of getting admitted. This is especially true if you’re thinking of getting a degree in areas like business, information technology or engineering.

3. Include less selective schools
About a fourth of your college target schools should be those that are less selective when it comes to admissions of international students. You will know this by finding out about the minimum scores they require on admissions tests. Sure, famous and well-known schools are always a good choice, but competition is very tough regardless whether you’re an international student or not.

4. Consider cost
Getting an education from some of the best universities and colleges in the world can be very expensive. An undergraduate institution can set you back by at least $15,000 to as much as $45,000, including room, board and tuition. If you’re getting a graduate education, expect the cost to be even higher.

It might also be difficult to find financial aid for international students since most of the loans, scholarships and grants being offered to college students are exclusive to US citizens. Don’t count on getting a job on US soil to pay for college, since there are restrictions in employing foreign nationals. On-campus jobs may also be difficult to get and they don’t pay much. Expect no more than $2,000 on a regular school year if you take an on-campus job.

5. Take tests
Another major consideration for international students is admissions testing. Every university or college has its own set of tests and standards which an international student applicant will have to pass to gain admission. Testing might include an English Proficiency test or TOEFL to determine whether a student can communicate efficiently in an English-language institution.

6. Bring your documents
International students will be required some travel documents on top of the required personal and academic documents. This can include a valid passport and a visa. The type of visa you will need will depend on whether you are taking an academic or vocational course. Make sure you get the appropriate documents months before your intended departure.

Bring certified true photocopies of your official academic records, diplomas, transcripts and certificates. Include originals and/or photocopies of valid IDs, birth certificates, marriage certificates, driver’s license, medical, dental and insurance records. Keep all the brochures, course catalogs, written communications and other materials that you have received from the school of your choice in a separate file.

An important thing to note: transcripts and other important documents must have an English translation or an accompanying English-translated document if they are written in your native language. Most schools will require translations to be done by a translation company, so be sure to ask.

7. Go on a campus visit
This is a consideration that isn’t available for most international students, although it is recommended. If (and only if) you can, visit a school campus during the school year, when classes are in session to get a feel of the institution. Ask questions, speak with the students and look at the facilities. This is not a requirement, but is a good option if you can do it.

8. Take note of the cost of living and accommodations
Sometimes it is about location. Some places will be much more expensive to live in than others. Find out how much you will be spending for the duration of your stay and make sure you have a reliable financial source to cover your expenses. You might also want to look into on-campus accommodations.

9. Choose schools with an international student population
You might want to consider schools that have a good number of international students in their population. This is a good indication that these schools are sensitive to the special needs of international students and are more used to diverse cultures, so you are more likely to feel at home.

10. Don’t rely on rankings
It’s tempting to choose an academic institution based on its published rankings. You’ll probably find this in annual college ranking lists and publications, but the best college for you may not be what people vote as the number one. Your choice should always be made based on your goals, needs, interests, standard and budget.