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Choosing The Right College

ONE of the most difficult decisions for international students wishing to study in the United States is deciding which school, college or university, is right for them. The choice can be very problematic at time as there are over 3,000 colleges and universities to choose from.

If your major is too general or if you’re undecided, then try limiting your choice of schools by

a) Region or state.

b) Cost

c)  Specialization

d) Industry linkages

If you can’t afford a private school of your choice, select from state schools, and then try to narrow down by admission standards, location, and size of school etc.

But you might be in dilemma whether it’s the right school for you? Perhaps, you’ve eliminated some excellent choices and be settling for a school  .

Here you need to ask yourself some very important questions before you begin your research. Some of the important points you need to take into account before making your decision are given below —

Programme of study

A good first step is deciding what you want to study. Again the more specific the major the more schools you can eliminate. But don’t force yourself to choose prematurely. Many students will change their majors at least once, and you don’t have to decide until your second year, so if you’re undecided, it’s best to keep your options open – why major in the wrong field?

Take your time, sample courses, and find out what you are good at. But if you have a major, then ask yourself how can you apply what you’ll be studying to getting a job back home. Keep in mind that what may be popular now may be saturated four years from now. Also, don’t assume you have to go for a four-year institution, just because everyone else is, when a trade or a technical school may better suit you.

You should think in terms of a career, especially one that interests you, then find out what programme of study you need to pursue to get where you want to be.

Admission standards

Admission standards vary greatly from school to school. It’s always best to apply to several schools, those you feel (and hope) you can get into, and at least one you know will accept you. Popular schools, those with high standards, or limited capacity, will have the earliest deadlines – so be prepared.

When considering reputations you’ll need to go beyond the Rankings and Ratings reports (which are often controversial at best). Every school likes to think it’s a “leading college”, but is it? Where are they drawing their students from? Their own communities? Their home state? All over the US? Throughout the world? How many professors hold PhDs and how many of them actually teach classes?

Then again, do you even have grades or the TOEFL/SAT scores to get into the best schools? If your grades are only moderate at best you may apply to schools with less competitive admission standards. If your grades are well below average you should consider attending an accredited community or junior college, which accepts most students who apply with a minimum of educational requirements.

This could be the foot in the door, and if you do well you can then transfer into a four-year institution to complete your studies.

Accreditation

When a school is accredited it means it has met the minimum requirements of a regional accrediting agency, so again schools vary widely. Professional programmes within the school will still need to be accredited by a professional association within the field. So if you’re planning to enter a professional programme, like Engineering of Pharmacy, this is very important.

Costs

While considering the amount needed for your education you need to look at all the costs involved, including personal expenses and transportation to and from the school. If room and board are not included it could mean the school doesn’t offer student housing; many community colleges do not.

High tuition costs do not always reflect high standards. You must think in terms of value, or the quality of the education for the time and money spent. You should be asking, what does this particular school have to offer other than a basic education? How can this school help you become a better person? How extensive is the library system? Their research facilities?

International student services

For many students, having an International Students Office is worth the extra expense. Cultural and visa problems may crop up and you will need someone who is not only familiar with but also sensitive to your needs.

Will the school make arrangements to fetch you from the airport or are you expected to make it there on your own? Are student advisors provided?

These little points could leave big impression  over your overall educational experience.

Region & Climate

Climate should be an important aspect of your selection criteria. You must ask yourself, how adaptable are you? How cold is too cold? How hot, can you bear? Do you like the sunny beaches full of recreational activities or do you like a sober milieu ?

You and only you need to make a cognizant decision !

Location/ Personal Safety

If you don’t feel comfortable staying in a large city or if you’re overly concerned about personal safety, then shy away from schools located in major cities.

However, even in a small town you have to use some common sense, like not walking alone late at night in a secluded area. Most schools have their own security staff and campuses are often designed in such a way you can’t help but feel cut off from the rest of the world even if you’re located in the heart of a major city.

Financial aid

Financial aid is becoming more and more competitive and not all schools give out aid to international students, and some don’t even advertise that fact, to prevent students from applying only for that reason.

Students need to be realistic about their qualifications. Are you a solid or an outstanding student? Are you involved in extra-curricular activities or athletics?

Private schools are more likely to give out financial aid than public schools, but with their higher tuition costs even with financial aid they still may be more expensive than their state-supported counterparts, so choose wisely :-):-)

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