Choosing and researching a U.S. University is one of the most significant decisions a student needs to make when planning on studying in the U.S. Often, students do not give this step its due share of time and seriousness. The college or university that a student selects plays a defining role in his/her academic, campus and social experience of living in the United States and to his/her learning outcomes. Students tend to choose universities that their friends have applied to or seek the most popular and well-known names. While personal references and recommendations may be a good starting point, students need to look further and deep while researching their options.
Defining Your Priorities
The first step a student needs to take is to define his/her priorities for studying in the United States. Some of the questions a student needs to reflect upon include:
- What are the student’s short term and long term goals ?
- Is the student seeking a Master's or Doctoral program, a professional degree, or a professional certificate?
- If seeking a research-oriented program, do the department’s and professors research interests align with that of the student?
- Does the student have a preference about the size of the campus or the classroom? Would the student like to study at a large, mid-sized or small campus?
- Would the student like to attend a comprehensive university or rather a specialized institution?
- How much is the student willing to invest in his/her education?
The most important features to look for when defining priorities include program content, location, tuition cost and funding opportunities. Additionally, reflecting on the questions given above and thinking about the kind of experience that a student seeks will be the guide-post to their best-fit institutions. Once a student gets a clear picture of the type of institution he or she will flourish at, the next step would be to start exploring a wide variety of institutions.
Where to look: Researching institutions
A student can explore colleges and universities by first visiting their closest EducationUSA Centers. EducationUSA is a U.S. State Department-funded network of advising centers, that provides accurate, current and comprehensive information on U.S. Higher Education opportunities. All our centers are equipped with well-stocked libraries that have books on selecting U.S. institutions, commercial guides or directories with university listings, reference volumes, and other materials. Guides such as the Petersons and other directories list program alphabetically, by state or by academic discipline, thus making quick referencing easy. EducationUSA also organized annual U.S. Universitry and alumni fairs that provide a platform to intreact with universities and help in the shortlisting process.
Secondly, a student can look up online search tools like www.gradschools.com , the College Navigator https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/ and the Petersons online search tool at https://www.petersons.com/ to research colleges and universities across wide academic fields. Subsequently, students can look up university’s websites, specific departmental websites to learn about the programs being offered, labs, research themes, and faculty. University websites are also places where a student will find up to date information on admission requirements.
Needless to say that establishing contact with current students or alumni of the institutions that a student is interested in will provide prospective students an insider's view to studying at the respective university. Prospective students will realize that many current students are outspoken about the strengths and weaknesses of their professors, programs and the state of the job market. It is also of critical importance to understand the departmental faculty and their research interests.
In order to make your dreams of studying in the U.S. a reality, start scouting for the right program and universities. Students need to remember to develop a well-thought out and balanced list of universities which fit with their career, professional and financial needs. Do not make the mistake of shortlisting only the most selective universities. So dream, reach your goals and take it easy. This is just the beginning of a fantastic journey. To know more, look up EducationUSA at www.educationusa.state.gov and www.usief.org.in . Both websites have links on Studying in the U.S., funding your studies and completing your application. Students can stay connected with us and learn about our events by linking and following our Twitter handle www.twitter.com/EdUSAIndia and our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EducationUSADelhi In addition to the Twitter and Facebook page, EducationUSA also has a YouTube channel where students can listen to pre-recorded webinars on the 5 Steps of Studying in the US.
~ Anubhooti Arora, EducationUSA Adviser, New Delhi