Expert Tips on Studying Abroad: How to pick the best US university – researching your options


U.S. universities are unparalleled in the world, offering unmatched intellectual development, cutting-edge research opportunities and unmatched career opportunities. Selecting a U.S. college, out of the more than 4,500 accredited institutions of higher education, is a daunting task. Colleges vary dramatically in terms of size, geographical location, cost, academic focus, among many other factors. With such variety available, how do you narrow down the universities that are right for you? This article will lead you in the right direction and an EducationUSA office is always available for comprehensive and accurate information on studying in the United States.

As a first step in the university search, reflect on your interests and needs, then browse through the programs available to identify which ones match your personal goals and needs. 

There is an array of criteria for applicants to contemplate before getting down to the business of university selection. The most important criterion is the program itself. At the undergraduate level, this involves answering the following questions: Are the majors you want to study available? If you desire, is there flexibility to take up minors in other fields? Would undergraduate research be a possibility?

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For the postgraduate applicant, this would involve determining answers to similar questions: Which program is the right bridge toward your career goals? What is the balance of core courses to electives? What picture of the department do faculty profiles paint, and in what kind of research is the department involved? Are there specialized laboratories or research centers relevant to the field?

The second criterion is the budget. Which universities can you afford? At which universities are there opportunities for scholarships, financial aid or assistantships?

Other criteria may rise or fall in significance depending on the applicant. Applicants might want to look into opportunities for practical training during or after the academic program. Some might be interested in location in terms of the weather or the institutions’ proximity to relatives. Others might be concerned about dining and transportation options. Some might be more comfortable with institutions with sizeable international student populations. Undergraduate applicants may also look more holistically at the environment of the university and take into account opportunities for extra-curricular activities such as sport, debating or hackathons. Applicants may also consider whether the values of the university match their own, whether those are leadership, service to society, or intellectual curiosity.

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Some applicants swear by ranking lists available online. However, it is important to note that no official ranking exists for institutions of U.S. higher education. Some resort to the lists of institutions their seniors have applied to, but what suits another applicant may not agree with your own requirements. Instead of these approaches, we recommend finding the “right fit”: the best universities for you are the ones that match your unique priorities.

Investigating these criteria requires a lot of research. This takes time but is crucial in identifying universities that align with your interests and needs. Applicants should begin this research 12 to 18 months before they plan to study in the U.S. For more information, explore the “Research Your Options” section on the EducationUSA website ( Consider visiting an EducationUSA center near you for personalized and trustworthy advising from EducationUSA advisers, who are the only U.S. government-sponsored education advisers in India.

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(The article is conitrbuted by Deborah Rosario, EducationUSA Adviser. EducationUSA is a U.S. Department of State network of over 430 international student advising centers in 178 countries and territories. The network promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world by offering accurate, comprehensive, and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States. EducationUSA is your official source on U.S. higher education.)


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