Choosing a university

With thousands of academic programmes, world-class institutions and unmatched flexibility, the USA offers a breadth of higher education opportunities you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Narrowing these institutions down can be an exciting and surprising process. Many students find their perfect match at a university or location they’d not previously thought of.

Follow our three-step process for choosing the best university for you!

Step 1: Think before you search

Speak to those closest to you and prioritise the most important factors for your US university experience. The below list is not exclusive, but lays out some things you might consider:

You should also speak to:

  • Your school or college higher education adviser
  • Anyone you know who has studied in the USA

Step 2: Do your research

Once you know what’s important to you, it’s time to do some research and put together a list of 10-20 universities that meet most or all of your criteria.

The following resources let you search for universities using many of the factors above:

Some of these resources include university rankings, but rankings in the USA are not the same as in UK. Some don’t rate the quality of teaching or graduate prospects, and some give weight to how much money a university has, or invite universities to peer rank themselves.

Rankings can be useful tools, but shouldn’t be the only method you use to choose a university. Use these search functions to look for universities that meet the factors that are important to you.

Step 3: Narrow your choices

Once you have 10-20 universities that meet your criteria, you should narrow this list down to the ones to which you will apply. Think strategically, and spread your chances of admission.

We recommend you apply to five to eight US universities, in order to maximise your competitiveness:

  • Two to three highly competitive universities to reach for
  • Two to three that match your academic profile
  • One to two where your academic profile is safely higher than their average

If you require university funding, consider applying to more safety and match schools than reach institutions. Wherever your academic profile is higher than a university’s average, you will be a very competitive applicant and will stand a greater chance of gaining merit-based scholarships if they are available.

Campus visits

You do not need to visit a US university before you apply.

Campuses are usually open for self-guided tours throughout the year, except federal holidays and winter closures. Please contact each university to find out their specific arrangements, and when guided tours are available.

If you can’t visit a university, consider the following: