By Ed Smallwood, A-List Education UK
In the 1990s, as a student at a British secondary school, I made a decision that has had a profoundly positive impact on the rest of my life: I decided to apply to universities in the United States. While I was not the only pupil at my school to do so, we were certainly a very small group. During four fantastic years at Harvard I was able to study a broad range of subjects from astronomy to opera to South American literature, to become a more confident person and to build lasting friendships with remarkable individuals from all over the world.
These days more than 9,000 UK students a year are opting to attend a US university. While it’s not for everyone, it is a move I highly recommend for motivated students keen to expand their horizons.
There are over 4,000 US universities and selecting the right one for you can be a daunting task. The most frequent mistake we encounter in the entire application process is targeting only the “brand name” universities—focusing on perceived reputation rather than looking for the “best-fit” institution for a specific student.
Here are five critical points to consider when building your university list:
1. Competitiveness: the most competitive US universities accept under 10% of applicants, so even if you have stellar exam results there is no guarantee that you will be accepted. Your list must consist of a range from these highly competitive “reach” universities to “safety” options where your grades and SAT/ACT scores are significantly better than last year’s admitted students.
2. Funding: a US university education is a major investment for a family so make sure you have researched funding options while you are drawing up your list. Financial aid is available in several formats for international students from some but by no means all US universities.
3. Geography and Size: there are a wonderful assortment of universities located all over the US so you should consider: location (East Coast vs. West Coast etc.), rural vs. urban campus and size (do you want to be in a university of 2,000 or 50,000 students).
4. Academic Focus: the broad array of possible majors and a Liberal Arts curriculum are big attractions for many international students. However, some institutions are particularly strong in certain areas.
5. Social Life: adjusting to life in the US can be a big challenge so look at how many international students attend an institution and if the clubs and activities offered match your interests.
The summer is a perfect time to get started on your university list: research on the Internet, speak to local alumni, call admissions departments and even visit a campus or two if you can!
Ed Smallwood is the President of A-List Education UK, a leading educational consultancy that guides international students through the US university application process. Ed attended Harvard for his undergraduate degree, New York University for his Master’s and Columbia for his MBA. Go towww.alisteducation.co.uk for more information.