Deciding what college/university is right for you

If you are in the lucky position of having to decide between two or more colleges/universities, you are probably making your final choice with these considerations:

In this issue....

1. Cost to attend
2. Reputation of the college/university
3. Location
4. Academic offerings (majors and minors)
5. Size of college/university
6. Support for International Students

1. Cost to attend

Colleges/Universities in the United States are either public or private. Public colleges and universities are directed and funded by the state they are in. For example, the University of Massachusetts is run by the state of  Massachusetts. It has a few campus locations; Boston, Amherst, Dartmouth. The state of Massachusetts also oversees state schools with different names (not University of Massachusetts) that are located in different areas of the state such as, Salem State College, Bridgewater State College,  Framingham State College etc.  Private college/universities are plentiful and are not overseen by the state they reside in. They are funded by student tuition and gifts from alumni.

State Colleges have two tuition cost tiers - one for in-state residents and one for out-of-state residents. If you live in the state (substantial proof required) where the college/university is located, the costs are significantly less than for students who live elsewhere. However, state college/universities are still usually less expensive, even for out-of-state residents, than private colleges.

Private colleges have a set cost for all students, where students come from does not affect the cost. It is the same for all who attend.

International students must have proof of financial ability to pay for school with evidence that funds are available to support four years of study in the United States.

Example:  Florida State University   (State University)

According to their website, the cost to attend :

Florida Residents   Total $17,604 USD
Non-Florida Residents  Total $ 32,771 USD

Example:  University of Miami   (Private University)

According to their website, the cost to attend:

Cost of attendance: $58,782 USD

2. Reputation of the college/university

There are thousands of college and universities in the United States. A look at  will help you learn about which colleges are ranked higher than others. US News ranks colleges each year, and though some find their ranking system less than perfect, you can use this link to get some idea of which colleges serve their student population better than others.

3. Location

Where the college/university is located will impact your overall experience. The United States is a very large country with cultural differences in its many areas. Living on the East or West coasts,  North or South coasts will offer different dynamics.Colleges and universities located in the middle sections of the United States have their own cultures as well.

Take a look at these sites: 

4. Academic offerings

You may or may not have a concrete idea of what career you want to pursue. If you do, you will want to enroll in a college/university that has a program that will offer you the skills and tools to succeed in your chosen field. However, if you do not know, you will want a large enough college/university that will allow you to try different skills and career paths so that you can decide what you are most interested in. Most colleges require that students decide their major by the end of their sophomore year.

Too many times, students enroll in a small college, (less than 2000 students) and realize in their first semester that they don't like the program. For students attending a small college and in this situation, the choices are either to endure the program even though they know it isn't a good fit, try to find another program within the college that probably has limited choices, or transfer to a different college/university. Enrolling in a college that is large enough to transfer within it has benefits for students who are unsure of what they want to study. A liberal arts college may also be a good choice, as they prepare students in broader areas of study.

5. Size of college/university

Size does matter! To get an idea of what size college you would like, think of the high school you presently attend. Is it too big, too small or just right for you? The answer will help determine which size college you could comfortably see yourself attending. Larger colleges tend to have more diverse populations, therefore, you probably won't be one of the only international students. This may or may not be important to you. In addition, smaller schools tend to have more opportunities for undergraduates to work with professors, smaller class sizes, and more intimate campuses. Larger schools may have more options of programs to study, more school spirit (athletics and sorority/fraternity) and greater opportunities for advanced study.

6. Support for International Students

As international students, English may not be your first language. If this is the case, you may want to consider if the college you are interested in has support in place for you to be successful. Does the college have a writing/learning center, an ESL program, special courses for you to take that help close the communication gap? These are important questions to ask the college. Why? Because attending classes that are culturally different and in a different language will pose issues for you. How big or small the issues that arise may be, it is helpful to have a resource on campus for you. Check with the admissions department or view the college website to see if any of these resources exist.


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