Finding the Right U.S. College For You

Image courtesy of Wilson Hui via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

With thousands of U.S. colleges and universities to choose from, finding the right one for you can be a difficult task. Firstly, there’s huge choice in terms of type of institution, whether it’s private, liberal arts or big public colleges. But there are other criteria you should consider before applying as an international student.

 

Here are some of the ways you can narrow your search.

 

Find what’s important for you

Like with any major decision, some real thought needs to go in to what you want to get out of your university experience. It’s especially important for international students to think about this as you’re going outside your comfort zone for a few years in a new country.

Knowing what you want should apply to all aspects of your choice of college – not just the prestige of the institutions. Here are a few categories that you can use to make your list.

  • Your budget (for the duration of your studies, including holidays). It’s no use choosing a college that you won’t be able to afford. First, calculate your overall maximum budget and any scholarships/funding you might have.

 

  • College standing. It’s still important to go for the best college that you can, so include choices that you have the qualifications for (including IELTS band score), and will be noticed when you come to look for jobs.

 

  • Job prospects. Apart from the standing of the university helping your job prospects, there may be particular places in the U.S that are better than others for you. If you’re a software developer, you’re more likely to find a job close to you if you choose to study in California, rather than Wyoming.

 

  • Area. Do you want to live on a campus, or in a big city? It can make a huge difference to your life and options during the holidays. You may also want to see more of the rest of the country, so a place that’s too remote might not be for you. Make sure you’re clear about where you won’t go.

 

  • Extra-curricular. You’ll be spending a lot of time outside of the classroom too, so you should keep in mind your hobbies and interests and which colleges offer the most for you.

 

Once you’ve got your list you can get to work on researching colleges and narrowing your list further.

Refer back to our recent View From Campus post for more on researching U.S. colleges.

 

 

 

Summer Travelling on a Student Budget

Image courtesy of Jack Snell via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

The Long Hot Summer

The one sure thing about university is that you get holidays – lots of them! And summer is the biggest and the best time to set off on some adventures. But they can burn a hole in your pocket too, so here are some tips to keep you on the road…

 

Make the most of them – plan your trip

Planning your budget for your holiday is of course the most important way to keep costs down. Contingency money and travel insurance(!) are also must-haves. You never know when you’re going to need it and you’ll be glad that you have it when you do. If you travel a lot, think about getting annual cover, as the costs tend to be less.

Planning can also steer you clear of the dreaded ‘tourist traps’ that will quickly see your bank balance go south! Main tourist spots will attract a hike in prices, so be sure you know as best you can before you go what you should expect to pay for food, hotels etc.

It’s a long summer, so working and saving before going anywhere is always a good option for students. It gives you the time to save your pennies and plan your trip before setting out.

 

Work whilst you’re away

Finding a job whilst you’re travelling can give you a great chance to get to know the people and culture of a place you’re visiting. Best of all, you’ll make friends for life.

It can also give you a base and the money to explore the country from. Your new friends can give you the inside information on the best places to go and how to avoid the tourist traps that will drain your bank account.

Having experience of working in different countries always looks impressive on a CV too.

 

Use your Social Media

As well as the must-have travel guides in book form, there is a lot you can now research online to find the best deals and most exciting places to go. Social media is also a good way to check what’s going on in certain places and potentially find a job for when you arrive. As ever – be cautious on the internet and never give over your details. Only use it for extra research, as things may be very different when you get there!

Once you’re there, social media can help plug you in to what’s going on in town, and find the best places to explore

 

Festivals and Camps

Festivals and camps that only exist in the summer will often be looking for employees, so can be a great way of having a cheap holiday. Camps like Camp America will pay for your room and board, and you’ll have extra money to spend as you see fit.

Again, this type of work will look great on your CV and you’ll have made great friends whilst enjoying yourself – that can’t be bad!

 

Failing all of that, you can start saving now and travel the world next year!

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