How to find the right college or university for you in the U.S.

Rachael Hayes, University Pathway Coordinator at ILSC-New York, weighs in on some of the fundamentals of college-searching in the U.S.


Find the right college or university in the U.S.

As the University Pathway Coordinator at an English school in New York, I am often the first person students talk to when they decide they want to continue their education in the U.S.

Upon consultation, my first question to them is usually, “Do you know which college you want to go to?”

Most international students don’t know the answer to this question, or even where to begin their search.  Which is why I’d like to share with you some basics to help you get started on your search for the right college or university in the U.S..

1. Narrow down your list

There are over 4,000 higher education institutions in the U.S. – that’s a lot of options to choose from! This incredibly large number of colleges and universities means you should first decide on a few factors that are most important to you, which I’ve listed below. Rate these in order of importance and start your search with schools that call into that category.


Campus Life

Program Offerings


Required English Level

Acceptance Rate

 2. Where to search

Now you’ve narrowed down what’s important to you; for example, you might want to go to college in New York City and you know you want to study Fashion Merchandising. How do you find your school from here?

Well, there are many excellent resources for filtering through U.S. colleges. One that I highly recommend is College Board Search, an incredibly comprehensive tool. In less than a minute, I was able to use their search engine and narrow down from 3,843 schools to 8 New York City schools with Fashion Merchandising such as Berkeley, LIM, and FIT.

If you are planning to study English before you attend a U.S. university, it is a good idea to find an English language school with university partners they can connect you to. ILSC’s advanced search on our University Pathway website helps you pick through our university partners depending on the qualification and area of study you’d like to search. The big bonus is that you can apply to these colleges and universities without having to take the IELTS or TOEFL tests if you graduate from ILSC with the partner’s language level requirement.

 3. Rankings

Arguably the most used source for comparing colleges is the U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings.  The U.S. News Ranking System uses a formula to quantitatively measure the school’s success. Each college is measured on 16 factors of academic excellence and each factor is assigned a weight based on U.S. News’s judgement. After finding a few schools you are interested in, check the U.S. News Ranking to ensure you are choosing a good school.

In a few cases, schools may not have a ranking. This could be because of a smaller student population, eligibility standards, or if it is a highly specialized school in arts, business, or engineering. If you cannot find your desired school on the ranking list, please contact us and we can help you find more information.

4. Support

Even the most prepared students can still feel overwhelmed by all the choices and steps in front of them. International students, especially, may want the guidance of a counselor who can help them make the best choice and create a competitive application for their chosen college or university. Consider a pathway program like ILSC’s University Pathway or an admissions consultant service like UAdmit. A counselor will help you though every step of the process to make sure you apply to the best school for you.

5. Start now

If you’re reading this article, then it is probably already time for you to start you search. The process of applying to college takes longer than most people think. You’ll need to start your application process at least a year (or more) before you intend to start your program. You need time to look over application requirements, pass your English level requirement, and prepare the best application possible.

It can be a daunting task, but a U.S. education will help set you apart from your peers whether you decide to work in the U.S. or your home country.

If you have any questions about University Pathways or counselling options, please contact us at ILSC.



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