Studying in the USA - Getting the 'Right Fit'

4 min read

Studying overseas in a new place can be intimidating. However, there are things that international students can look for in a US college or university to make the transition more beneficial. It’s all about finding a ‘good fit’.

The ‘right fit’ can encompass a number of different factors; it will meet a student’s expectations with regard to academics, extracurricular activities, post-graduation plans, and much more. We’ve listed a number of factors which would be beneficial for international students to consider, to ensure they find a ‘good fit’ US college or university.

Does this school have what I’m looking for academically?

When researching colleges and universities, one of the first things students should look into is whether or not a school offers the major they’re interested in.

Before you spend a lot of money and a lot of years working towards a degree, it’s worth spending the time to make sure you’re studying something you have an interested in.

Students should also think early on about whether they’re interested in a liberal arts program, or a more narrowly focused degree program. Liberal arts programs provide undergraduates with a more general education in the humanities, sciences and social sciences, as opposed to having a professional or technical emphasis.

It can also be beneficial for students to try and identify the type of learning environment in which they perform best – for instance, does a student feel more comfortable in smaller classes? This can determine whether they would be more likely to succeed in a small, mid-size or large school.

In addition, it is advisable for students to make sure they meet, or come close to meeting, the academic criteria for international student applicants at the institutions they are considering. To do this, prospective students can check school websites to see if their own high school grades and standardised test scores – e.g. TOFEL scores – are within the range of what the school is looking for.

Will my needs be met outside of the classroom? 

It can be worth students spending some time thinking about the type of location they will be most comfortable in – such as, a big city as opposed to a small town – since America is such a large and geographically diverse country. The culture of a campus and its surrounding community is a further consideration that should be deliberated by students.

Another factor that can be beneficial for students to consider, is whether or not they have friends or family in the area. Such connections can provide additional support throughout a student’s time in the US.

One way to gauge how supportive a school is of its international students, is to talk with current students about their experiences on campus. This can often prove particularly helpful if students have the opportunity to speak with students from their home country.

Can I afford this school?

Cost is a further major component of the ‘right fit’. Studying in the US can be expensive, and students need to be realistic about what they can afford.

Even if students receive scholarship awards – academic or athletic – it is likely that they will be required to contribute toward their years at university in the States. Thus, it would be worthwhile for students to consider what, if any, level of financial contribution they could potentially afford to make towards fees not covered within the scholarship.

Ultimately, it would be the responsibility of the student and their family to cover the remaining costs to attend the university.

Will this school help me achieve my career goals?

It can also be beneficial for students to consider how well a school will prepare them for life after graduation – whether that be graduate school or entering the world of work.

Schools can often provide data on how many of their student are employed after graduation. More specifically, students can ask institutions to show them employment data for their international student graduates.

As prospective students research US schools, it is likely that they’ll have questions. Engage with the college – schools themselves are often willing and able to provide the answers.

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