How to Research Colleges if You're an International Student

Managing Editor, Peterson's & EssayEdge

Last Updated: Jul 1, 2014

It's very rare for an American student to pick a college without having visited the campus at least once. However, for international students, the time and expense to do this can make a site visit impossible. In order to pick your school, you'll need to rely on open house seminars conducted in your area, feedback from friends and acquaintances who have attended the school, and the Internet. But how do you know that the information is reliable?

If you truly have no idea where to start in your research, you can try checking out some of the more reliable college lists and rankings available through various U.S. organizations, such as Colleges That Change Lives and U.S.News & World Report. However, don't pick a school based solely on reputation.

It’s not a popularity contest

The “brand name” of your school means less than you might imagine in your career, and attending a lower-ranked school that will allow you to accomplish your educational goals means much more than attending a well-known institution where you will feel isolated or can’t get the classes that you need.

Trust the college's website

For the most part, the college website itself can provide you with the most accurate information. Universities in the United States are proud of their programs, so they are honest about classes, the campus culture, and the types of programs that the school offers.

Research your future professors

Another way to dig deeper into your chosen program is to do a little research about the professors. Excellent programs attract faculty members who are active in their field. Are they doing research and publishing articles? Have the professors received awards or been invited to speak at conferences? If not, then the program might not be able to provide you with the knowledge and opportunities you need for your career.

Seek out international student scholarships

Scholarships are another major concern for international students. However, most U.S. websites list scholarships that are only for U.S. students. If you want to know about scholarships that either accept international students or are exclusively for international students, then websites typically ask you to pay a fee. Often, this is a waste of money, as the results are not going to really help you find the scholarship that you need. Two reputable scholarship sites for International Students are International Scholarships and EduPass.

Even so, don't limit your search just because of scholarships. This is a common error that international students make, as the university system in their country may be based on scholarships. Because of this, international students might assume that a scholarship is necessary in order to attend school. It’s different in the United States, and many students attend college without a scholarship. Look at the total cost of the program before you make your decision. A state school with an outstanding program might be cheaper than a private school, even if the private school offers you a huge scholarship.

Ultimately, being an international student means taking more time to do research than you would if you were a U.S. student or if you were attending university in your own country. While attending a specific program to gain training for a job is the main reason that students choose to study abroad, keep in mind that most Americans view college as more than just preparation for a career. With so many colleges and universities in the United States, the perfect fit is out there to provide any international student with a total collegiate experience.

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