Admissions: General Considerations

Academic standards:

Admission to some U.S. colleges and universities is very competitive, especially for international students. On the one hand, you want to be sure that you’ll be accepted to a school, but you also want a school that is academically challenging. Usually the top academic schools are the schools most competitive in gaining admission.

Find out about each school’s admission standards, and how your own record will measure up. Ask your counselor and teachers about your chances of acceptance to your chosen schools. Keep in mind that most colleges and universities base their admissions decision on academic performance. Scores on standardized admissions tests are important, but marks or grades in school are more important.

In the School Directory, read about the academic environment you’ll encounter (also see “Contacting Schools“)

  • Do students spend most of their time in classroom study?
  • Does the school encourage “independent study”,” studying or doing research by yourself, rather than in a class?
  • Are classes large or small? What is the ratio of teachers to students?
  • Are faculty members available to meet regularly with students?
  • Do professors involve their students in their academic or scientific research?
  • Does the school operate a work-study or internship program for students to work in their fields before they graduate?
  • If you need specialized equipment, such as a science laboratory or access to computers, does the school have this equipment?

Also see “Selecting a school or college“.


Where you live determines how you live, which can be a source of contentment or frustration. Pay attention to the school’s setting and climate. Think about the weather conditions you can tolerate, and about the physical environment of the university.

Is it in the center of a huge city like New York or Chicago, or nestled in a grove of redwood trees above the Pacific Ocean? Would you like to live in a city, in a suburban area, or in the countryside? You might like the excitement of a big city where other international students congregate, and where you can buy foods more familiar to you.

You might prefer the beauty and tranquility of the U.S. countryside. In a smaller school it is easier to become acquainted with students and the teachers. Some students prefer rural schools because there are fewer distractions.

Other students:

Ask about the student population of the schools that interest you. Important factors are the size of the school and the number of international students. It is also important to know if most students belong to a particular religious or ethnic group. Consider whether the school is all men, all women, or coeducational (both sexes attend together). Also, ask about the proportion of undergraduate to postgraduate students.


Give some thought to the sports or outside activities you enjoy. Again, the location of the school may be important. Even if the school does not offer certain activities, such as skiing, you may still have opportunities to enjoy your favorite hobbies off campus.


The cost of a U.S. education includes more than just tuition, housing, food, books, and supplies. Be sure to add travel to the school from your home, and your personal living expenses. Remember that you will want to be comfortable when you are far from home. Find out how much it costs to live in the city or town where the school is located. Living in big cities is often more expensive than living in small towns, though living in the city offers more convenience, and is sometimes even less expensive than rural living.

A school’s catalog, brochure, or web site indicates the cost of studying there. Please be aware that costs increase every year.

For more information on costs, see “Tuition, Fees & Costs“.


See chapter Accreditation of Schools.