The Quintessential College Guide for International Students: Part One
September 02, 2019
Applying to American universities can be daunting for U.S. citizen, let alone an international student. Here's part one of a three part guide that will help you ask the right questions as you conduct your college search.
Attending college in the U.S. is an investment, as the price tag tells us. Careful thought and consideration is necessary when applying to American universities. It requires much more consideration than simply filling in a few blanks on a form and sending the application to universities that sound good and have familiar names. There is a lot of research involved, and, in an ideal world, a visit to thecolleges of interest.
Part I: Geography
Becoming a university student in the United States is quite appealing. Given that there are over 3,000 higher education options in the U.S., students have many considerations. With this many choices, how should students decide where to apply?
# Size of Universities
Perhaps the search should start with size of universities. How large of a campus would you be comfortable with? Campuses range from the very small (under 2,000) to the very large (over 20,000), the latter of which essentially turn a university into town or a city (take, for instance, the University of Wisconsin—Madison). The breakdown might look like this:
- Very Large: Over 20,000 (can have an undergraduate population as large as 40,000)
- Large: 13,000-20,000 undergraduates
- Medium: 7,000-13,000 undergraduates
- Small: 2,000-7,000 undergraduates
- Very Small: Fewer than 2,000 undergraduates
Very large campuses often have large class sizes, a high student-to-faculty ratio, and span an extraordinary amount of acreage. During the first two years, some classes may be taught by teaching assistants (graduate students) rather than professors. Large schools may offer a wide variety of majors, and athletics often play a big role in campus life.
Smaller schools are, of course, smaller in size, student population, and campus expanse. Along with this smaller size comes smaller class sizes, lower student-to-faculty ratios with professors teaching most, if not all, classes. Smaller schools may emphasize hands-on experiences.
# Topography and Climate
Here are some more questions to consider:
- What kind of weather do you like: hot, cold, changing or never changing seasons?
- Do you like mountains, hills, flat land, the ocean, etc.?
- Do you prefer a diverse population?
- Is it important to have some family and friends nearby?
- Will it be necessary to be nearby a major international airport?
# Geographic Regions
The U.S. is vast and states are grouped into regions:
- New England: Connecticut, Main, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
- Mid Atlantic: Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania
- South: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia
- Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin
- Southwest: Arizona, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas
- Pacific Northwest: Alaska, Oregon, Washington
- West: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming
You should also consider the myriad types of environment: whether a school is in a city, suburban area, small town, or agrarian surroundings. In terms of the 'physical' aspects of university, you need to determine what your comfort zone is. For example:
- A home away from home
- Size of campus — large, medium, or small
- How much communication and one-on-one guidance would you like from professors?
- Do you long for museums and a bustling city, or is rural life preferred?
There is a lot to consider as you figure out the geography of the United States. Start by getting out a map and becoming familiar with U.S. beyond the usual 'name brand' states and cities (New York/NYC, California/L.A./Hollywood, Florida/Disneyland, Illinois/Chicago, etc.). See what other places have to offer — you might be surprised.