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How to choose colleges when you’re an international applicant?

thenameisithenameisi Registered User Posts: 205 Junior Member
So that’s basically it- I can’t visit, so how do I see which college fits me the best. I’m interested specifically in choosing a college with reference to its location and professional reputation! Thanks!

Replies to: How to choose colleges when you’re an international applicant?

  • MonsterkittyMonsterkitty Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    35 years ago I made that leap as a 17 year old from a 3rd world country. All I had at that time were nice brochures sent to me by the schools. There was no internet, no google earth, no youtube. I had never even left my little town or travelled on a plane.

    You can tour most campuses on google earth, street view. Most schools have virtual tours on their website. Youtube has many videos, official and unofficial of many schools. Read forums like this to get a feel. Many if not most US kids dont get to visit all the schools they apply to either.

    Make the best decision you can with the data you can get. Then come with your eyes, ears and heart open to get the best experience you can.

    Good luck.
  • TTGTTG Registered User Posts: 1,464 Senior Member
    Good question. There are many colleges/universities in the US, something like 3000. They are wildly different.

    A few main points:

    Public and Private: Some are public (funded by state governments) and some are private. A few dozen of the most famous schools (Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Chicago, Johns Hopkins) are private. However, you can't use public v. private to determine quality. Many of the public schools--Universities of Michigan, Wisconsin, California, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, William and Mary, etc.--are some of the best universities in the world.

    Public and Private (costs): Privates typically begin with the same price for all students, domestic and international. Publics are cheaper for in-state students because their families are paying that's state's taxes and thus paying for the school. They cost more for out-of-state (OOS) and international students. Public universities typically give less financial aid to OOS students. Some will give merit aid to very top students. Your best bet for aid will be private schools, and it is more difficult for international students to qualify for aid. If you are full pay, then definitely look at the publics.

    Size: You also cannot determine quality by size. Some of the large state universities have up to approximately 40,000 undergraduate students. Some of the best liberal arts colleges (LACs) have 2000 or fewer students. The general rule of thumb is that these large state research universities offer better research opportunities and the smaller schools offer smaller classes (often much smaller) and closer interaction with professors. But you can get great research opportunities at smaller schools and close interaction with professors at large schools. That's often up to the student to make those things happen. I'd call under 4000 small, 4000-10,000 medium, 10,000-20,000 large, 20,000+ very large.

    Location: The Northeast has many great schools, including lots of top LACs. It is more liberal politically and has very cold weather. The Mid-Atlantic (about PA to NC) also has many great schools and better weather. The South is more politically conservative (although campuses are less so). The Midwest has many good schools, cold weather, and maybe the best deals (merit aid/financial aid). The West generally has nice weather (can vary). There are fewer schools, mostly because many of the mountain states have small populations, and California has many excellent public universities, though good privates as well. Which region sounds best?

    Environment: Would you like to be in a city, a college town, or a rural area?

    Once you think about these, you can go to a college search site like Forbes, US News and World Report College Rankings (USNWR divides schools into universities and LACs), or College Niche to find schools that meet your most important criteria. You can also google by almost any category: Best large universities, best southern colleges, best urban colleges/universities, even best hiking colleges.

    Also, once you have some parameters, you can also ask people here on CC what schools would fit what you want: for example, what's a good urban school in the Midwest or Northeast for an international student interested in chemical engineering who has x test scores and x grades can pay $30,000 per year, OR what's a good school for an international student interested in studying business who has x test scores and x grades and will be full pay? OR what's a good school for an international who has x test scores and x grades and needs significant financial aid? Good luck!

  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU Posts: 11,972 Forum Champion
    Check on https://educationusa.state.gov/ for an advising center for your country to get info on applying to US colleges.
  • TTGTTG Registered User Posts: 1,464 Senior Member
    On rankings, there is a great difference in how schools are ranked and the criteria are important. US rankings (like Forbes and USNWR, the most well known) are very different than world rankings. US rankings often focus on the stats of incoming students, the number who return after freshman year, the % who graduate, how much students earn after college. World rankings tend to be more focused on research, and how much professors publish. I don't think this latter (world rankings) criteria is as helpful for undergraduate students because often the professors who publish the most teach the least. However, if you are returning to your country to work, and employers there pay more attention to world rankings, that's something to consider.

    Some of the LACs with the best reputations in the US, like Williams, Amherst, Bowdoin, Kenyon, Rhodes, etc., have much lower world rankings because the professors at these schools are more focused on teaching than research, generally speaking. But they have fantastic reputations and offer an outstanding education.

    Also, there are many, many excellent schools with fantastic students, professors, staff, and resources. Often people focus on the the Top 50, which are also often dramatically more competitive in admissions than schools with similar academic quality but ranked a little lower. Several of the schools in the Top 20 or so have acceptance rates between 5-10% in regular decision, a few a little lower. Many of the schools ranked 50-200 have acceptance rates between 30-70%. And they are still among the Top 10 Percent of schools in the US.
  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 28,425 Senior Member
    Find out if potential employers in your own country care about where you study here. You will need to plan on returning home after graduation.

    Right now, for most majors you can extend your student visa for one year after graudation to work and gain professional experience (OPT). For other majors the time is longer. In either case, you have to find that job and start right after graduation. Many employers do not hire anyone in OPT, so there is no guarantee you will be able to do this.
  • katliamomkatliamom Registered User Posts: 12,327 Senior Member
    Unless money is no object and your family can afford $250,000 for your education, your FIRST criteria are financial.
  • warblersrulewarblersrule Super Moderator Posts: 9,953 Super Moderator
    TTG wrote:
    Location: The Northeast has many great schools, including lots of top LACs. It is more liberal politically and has very cold weather. The Mid-Atlantic (about PA to NC) also has many great schools and better weather. The South is more politically conservative (although campuses are less so).
    I think it's safer to say that urban areas typically lean left, where rural areas and smaller towns typically lean right. Northeastern states with large rural areas (e.g. Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, and Maine) have their fair share of red counties, as do all of the west coast states.

  • WeLoveLymanWeLoveLyman Registered User Posts: 223 Junior Member
    I think you should handle it somewhat like a U.S. student and have safeties, matches, reaches. Unless you'd only come for the reaches. In that case, do whatever.
  • thenameisithenameisi Registered User Posts: 205 Junior Member
    Thank you so much for all the amazing answers! I’ve already applied to many colleges and have head back positively from three of them- Purdue, Earlham and Mount Holyoke. All your answers have helped me greatly in indentifying a clear first choice- Mount Holyoke (subject to further acceptances of course)- thank you yet again for the time you took out to help a clueless international applicant!
  • thenameisithenameisi Registered User Posts: 205 Junior Member
    @katliamom yes Financial is certainly very important, and Mount Holyoke is meeting 80% of the cost for me so that’s a clear winner

    @WeLoveLyman I tried my best to make my list like that- let’s hope for good results!

    @happymomof1 yes, I’ll definitely look into that- thank you for that advice

    @bopper thank for that brilliant resource! It came of great use to me!

    @TTG and @Monsterkitty I was greatly influenced by your answers- I’m definitely going to try my best to keep these in mind!

    Thank you to everyone yet again!
  • artloversplusartloversplus Registered User Posts: 8,444 Senior Member
    I would further to say that for internationals the first thing is to establish a budget then start looking within the budget. Unless you are either top student in your country or super rich, US schools are super expensive and the public schools are very stingy on scholarships to the international undergraduate students.

    If you can get in those few international need blind schools, more power to you, but most students cannot get in, so you have to go to a lesser known schools.
  • TTGTTG Registered User Posts: 1,464 Senior Member
    In your research, did you see that Mount Holyoke is a member of the Five College Consortium, with Smith, Hampshire, Amherst, and University of Massachusetts at Amherst (state flagship), which I think a pretty big advantage. Students can take some classes at the other schools and can otherwise share resources/opportunities. Info on this link:


    Mount Holyoke has a beautiful campus and has terrific academics. And, yes Earlham and Mount Holyoke would be different experiences from Purdue, which is a large (and outstanding) public engineering/science/ag university, not better or worse, just different. Basketball and football would be huge there. Classes would be larger . . . and so would the amount of research being conducted, especially in science and engineering.

    Good luck and enjoy the experience!
  • thenameisithenameisi Registered User Posts: 205 Junior Member
    @TTG yes the consortium was a huge part of my decision regarding MHC. But I had a question, and I wonder if you could answer it/ give me any resources that can answer it- how do I check what is the reputation of a specific college with employers?
  • TTGTTG Registered User Posts: 1,464 Senior Member
    Maybe someone can chime in with some useful resources. I can't answer that specific question very well.

    In general, though, I don't think there is a great answer. It depends on so much.

    Internationally, major companies may consult World Rankings, and, as noted above, some of the US schools (including many LACs) with the best reputations are ranked fairly low there. I graduated from a very highly regarded mid-size national university. I see some larger research universities, which would appear much lower on US rankings, much higher on international ones. Among your schools, I'm guessing Purdue would be much higher in world rankings because it is a major research university whereas Mount Holyoke and Earlham have much more of a focus on teaching and smaller classes. So a student in some fields, or with some learning styles, might do better and grow more in that environment. That's a good question to ask yourself about yourself.

    Domestically, it can vary a great deal depending on a student's major (or even sub major), region of the country, and other factors. Purdue, for example, might be a Top 5 school for chemical engineering but more middle of the pack for business (that's not based on anything, just a hypothetical). Texas A&M would be much better known than WPI for engineering in Texas, and there would be more robust networks of fellow alums there, but vice versa for the Boston area. A small LAC might have 2-3 anthropology professors with close ties to top grad school departments in that field, better than a larger school.

    And I generally adopt a viewpoint that HOW you do in college and after you start working is much more important than WHERE you go. I think this might be more true in the US than other countries. Here are a few examples: I know three extremely wealthy (and generally successful) people in my community. Two grew up middle class and one lower middle class. One attended a quality, but not the most elite, state public flagship; one attended a second-tier public university; and one attended what most people would consider a third-tier public university in a state with a poor reputation in higher education. All are bright and work hard and take advantage of opportunities.

    I know someone who owns a business in Boston. At first, they hired interns from a certain Ivy League school. They found them lazy and generally self-important and started hiring Northeastern University students. They found them bright, creative, and energetic. Now that person only hires Northeastern interns.

    Major companies will recruit at Purdue. I know MH somewhat and am confident that it provides students terrific support in terms of internships and grad school and employment support. I know Earlham less, though we know of a couple of fairly recent grads through a family member. They enjoyed their experience there, but I can't really comment on the career/grad school support it offers students.

    I think this is a good answer, if probably a bit muddy from your perspective. Good luck with your decision.
  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer Registered User Posts: 647 Member
    To check for reputations with employers, I use the "outcomes" report which is available often on the university's website, if you can find it. These are compiled by the college placement office. Results are listed by major if the number of graduates in a given year were large enough to ensure privacy. You need the breakouts by major so you will not be comparing the incomes of History majors with those who majored in Computer Science. Some sites list the hiring organizations as well as the average salaries accepted by that major. They will also report the raw numbers on job placement as well as the number who went on to listed graduate schools.

    Compare this data between schools in the departments you have an interest in. If you have never heard of a listed company (not everyone works for Walmart or Apple), check out the companies on the internet. There are many incredible smaller companies that are not household words. Generally speaking, companies in greater NYC will pay better than companies in Mississippi because of differences in the cost of living (primarily housing). As an international student, you may not know what graduate schools are best in which fields. Some might argue the point, but CMU is generally considered a better place to go for Computer Science than most any place you may have heard of overseas.

    After this long winded advice, I went to the Mt Holyoke website to apply my suggestion See Career Outcomes @ https://www.mtholyoke.edu/cdc/careers/outcomes The results Graduate School results shown are very good, but they are a selected list and only the highest ranking graduate schools are listed. It is a fine list of schools. The listed hiring corporations are also impressive, but the outcomes are not presented by major and average salaries are not given. The small size of the college makes a comprehensive list difficult.

    A second report on graduate schools are found at https://www.mtholyoke.edu/iresearch/outcomes. It appears they are performing very well here. Place your arrow on the blue box and see the Mt Holyoke graduate School record.

    Depending on your major, graduate school may be necessary for a well paying job. As already pointed out by "TTG," well connected faculty can help admission to graduate school.

    I hope this helps. Spend some time researching "outcomes." You might want to talk to someone in the placement office to ask questions which may arise after you have poked around in their data.

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