One of the most important decisions an international student makes is where to go to school. Choosing a U.S. college or university may seem overwhelming with so many options available, but it’s also an exciting time. It’s important to carefully consider several factors to ensure an enjoyable educational experience. Here are a few tips to help navigate this process:

Identify Academic Goals and Interests

The first step in choosing an appropriate school is to narrow the search by defining any academic goals or interests. Some schools may not offer what students are looking for, so it’s essential to look into the courses and majors offered by different institutions. Prospective students should decide whether they have a specific major and focused program in mind or if they are looking for a more general education that will help them decide a major.

Additionally, prospective students should research the faculty at any schools of interest to see their expertise and any research opportunities of interest. Going to an institution with well-respected faculty and having opportunities to join their research team can lead to more connections and job opportunities after graduation.

Consider the Campus Environment and Location

Equally important as academics for some people, the location and environment of an institution’s campus play a large role in the “college experience.” Urban campuses can offer diverse cultural experiences with restaurants, arts, and museums, while rural campuses can provide a close-knit community and a focus on connecting with nature. Considering the climate, safety, and proximity to friends and family can also influence the decision.

More often than not in today’s virtual world, you can experience an institution’s campus online through photos, virtual tours, and videos. Check out the college or university’s social media accounts for chances to see student testimonials and daily life to see if it might be a good fit for you.

Keep Finances in Mind

One of the more difficult topics for many college students is finances. Especially as an international student, it’s important to plan expenses carefully. Many U.S. colleges and universities offer scholarships, grants, and assistantships for international students. Exploring these options and understanding the cost of living in different regions can help manage finances effectively. It’s also beneficial to consider part-time work opportunities and internships that can provide both income and valuable experience.

Prospective students should look at the cost of a college or university, but they should resist the temptation to dismiss it immediately based on the advertised price. According to data from OpenDoors, nearly 25 percent of international students in the 2022-23 school year had a primary source of funding from scholarships, grants, or government aid.

Review English Language Proficiency Requirements

Most U.S. academic institutions require proof of English language proficiency. The Michigan English Test (MET) is accepted as a reliable measure of English skills. Using our website, students can locate schools that accept MET to ensure a smooth application process. Additionally, preparing for and taking MET can provide a clear measure of readiness for academic challenges in an English-speaking environment.

Identify the Support Services the College or University Offers

Support services are essential to ensure a smooth transition to a U.S. college or university. Institutions that offer high-quality services, such as counseling and tutoring, help ensure that international students thrive academically and personally in their new home. Connecting with current international students through social media or online forums can provide insights into the quality and availability of these services. Additionally, prospective students should consider speaking with a counselor from the school directly to get insight into how they can support their needs.

Choosing the right school for international students is a balance of many factors. Prospective students should use available resources, such as the recognizing organizations map, to find an institution that aligns with their needs and accepts MET. Taking the time beforehand to research thoroughly can lead to a fulfilling academic career in the U.S.