Choosing A School In the US
The United States has more than 3,000 colleges and universities and you may find yourself overwhelmed by all the options. Give yourself plenty of time to thoroughly research the possibilities. Make a list of your priorities so that you can determine what schools meet those criteria best. Think of things like location, degree programs, scholarship opportunities, cost of living, size and credentials.
The United States has educational advising centers throughout the world. They do not charge a fee for answering questions, providing information about exams like the TOEFL, GRE, or GMAT, and making available catalogs, videos and brochures about American universities.
Take advantage of websites like www.StudyUSA.com that use search engines to filter through and help you narrow your focus, based on your interests and requirements. Talk to friends and family who have studied in the U.S. to get their input. Keep your long range goals in mind so that you don’t get distracted by insignificant information.
Differences In Us Schools
With more than 3,000 post-secondary schools to choose from, you will have to narrow your focus based on the specific criteria most important to you. Schools generally earn a reputation for certain strengths and while you cannot base your whole decision on reputation, pay attention to it. It generally indicates an area where a school places a lot of emphasis. The following paragraphs summarize a few areas where you might notice differences between schools.
Look at academic fields and majors. Aside from a number of specialized institutions, most colleges and universities offer a wide variety of subjects. But specific schools gain a reputation for their focus on particular subjects or fields of study. They often spend more money to attract strong professors and programs in those fields and that benefits the students interested in that particular field of study. While you could earn a degree in your field at almost any university, pay particular attention to the ones who promote those areas that particularly interest you.
Look at education levels available. Undergraduate classes target students who have not yet completed a college degree. If you have already completed a post-secondary degree, you will need to find graduate level programs for your continuing education. Check to make sure the classes offered at schools that interest you offer an appropriate degree program at the post-graduate level.
How important do you consider a school’s ranking? The top schools in the country maintain very high standards and potential students compete fiercely to obtain admission based on many criteria including test scores, extracurricular activities, grades and potential. However, you can certainly get a very solid education at plenty of other quality schools.
The location of a college or university can greatly influence your decision to attend their program. Make sure to consider factors such as weather and climate, the presence or absence of other internationals, cultural and recreational factors. If you have always lived in a big city, take into account how you would manage in a small town atmosphere. You will make your home in this environment for the next several years—the more you like it, the more likely you will succeed.
School Ranking Information
In America, you will find many clues to a highly competitive culture. From goods to sports teams to higher education, everyone wants to feel he/she has the best. When dealing with something as multi-dimensional as education, no standard measure exists, but that doesn’t stop anyone from trying.
U.S. News & World Report has published American college and university rankings since 1983. They arrive at their deductions based on an annual survey sent to each school as well as an opinion survey compiled from faculty and administrators outside the school. Among the factors surveyed they evaluate reputation, retention, selectivity, resources and graduation rate.
Critics of the U.S. News ranking system challenge their results and methodologies. Other organizations which compile general US annual college and university rankings include the Fiske Guide to Colleges, the Princeton Review, and College Prowler. More specific rankings for specialized programs focus on fields of study, location, affordability and other more subjective data.
Bottom line: don’t ever attend a university for its ranking alone. You can obtain a solid education and fantastic experience from a large number of quality schools that didn’t rank in the top 50. Remember, you must evaluate each school based on the criteria most important to you.
Campus life can vary greatly depending on the type of university you attend. Large, public universities have a reputation for a wealth of opportunities and no shortage of activities or companions, while smaller institutions have more of a small town community feeling where people get to know each other in multiple settings.
For many undergraduate students, college provides an opportunity to live independently for the first time and they eagerly push all the boundaries their parents had previously set for them. This often leads to heavy drinking, staying out late, promiscuity and general lack of responsibility, whether academically, morally or physically.
Some schools earn a reputation as “party schools,” known for their active social groups and a not necessarily academic focus. The Princeton Review recently released the results of a survey/study ranking the top 20 party schools according to the amount of drug and alcohol usage, hours of study each day and the popularity of sororities and fraternities. While not necessarily accurate, party schools do not usually have a reputation for a strong academic program.
Many campuses build a strong school spirit through their sports programs, encouraging the whole student body as well as the town or city to support them in their games and competitions. College sports in the United States have strong followings and stimulate huge rivalries throughout the country.
By getting involved in student activities and programs you can increase the chances of your experiencing more meaningful interactions. A large part of the college experience revolves around the groups you associate yourself with. Groups for all kinds of interests exist and you will find that much of campus life revolves around people with similar interests hanging out and doing things together, whether on or off campus. For example, if you enjoy theatre, you can find a group of like-minded students that attend and/or produce events and plan activities around them.
At some universities, sororities (for women) and fraternities (for both men and women or just for men) form social groups to promote bonding among select students who have undergone an initiation and acceptance ritual. Most of these groups have Greek letter names and have similar branches at schools across the country. While most no longer maintain any association with their origins, most began with community service projects or leadership goals in common.
When evaluating your choices for pursuing a post-secondary degree in the United States, cost will play a huge factor. Do not make the mistake of comparing only university costs. Take into account the total cost for studying in the U.S. That would include university expenses (tuition, books, labs, tutoring, etc.), as well as living expenses (rent, food, laundry, transportation, etc.).
For example, you may notice that tuition expenses at the University of California- Los Angeles seem reasonable in comparison to tuition at University of Wisconsin-Madison. However, when you factor in cost of living expenses, you will find that it costs at least twice as much to live in California as it would to live in Madison, Wisconsin.
College websites often provide information for cost of living in that area of the country, or you can look up cost of living comparison calculators online at websites like http://www.bankrate.com/brm/movecalc.asp. In general, areas away from the East or West coast have a lower cost of living than hubs like New York, California and Boston.
As a rule, the private, more elite institutions have higher tuition costs than public universities, but always check because some private institutions offer very competitive costs. And whether investigating a private or public school, you should always inquire about scholarships and financial aid packages available that could substantially lower your financial investment.Tags: post secondary schools, US, School Ranking Information, degree, United States
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