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Define priorities before choosing the US

education Updated: Apr 23, 2014 11:42 IST
Ishrat Jahan
Ishrat Jahan
Hindustan Times
US Department

In our global EducationUSA centres, the first question most students ask is, “I want to study in the US, can you give me a list?” Our answer, “We can help you find US universities that are the right fit instead!” Pursuing your dream of higher studies depends on important factors unique to you — your needs, interests, and — let’s not forget — your budget. It depends on how you define priorities to find your right fit. Once you are studying in the US, you should have an excellent academic experience that you’ll remember the rest of your life.

Defining priorities
Proper research is important — a simple process requiring commitment, planning and time. There are over eight lakh international students in the US; almost one lakh are from India. Out of 4,900 accredited institutions, there are definitely colleges and universities that are a right fit for you! Think about how you would answer these questions:

Why do you want to study in the US?
You have your reasons and it may change over time, but answering this will help define your search.

What are your goals?
Choose from the diverse fields of studies offered in the US, and think about your future plans and skill development.

Which ­environment do you prefer?
Far from home, success depends on emotional and physical well-being. Consider housing, weather, location, an international community nearby, hobbies, and sports you enjoy. Also consider the student population as US institutions can have anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000 students on campus.

What is the level of selectivity?
Selectivity of an institution is the total percentage of applicants who are accepted. Some highly selective institutions accept less than 10% of applicants, and others accept more than 80%. Consider your academic performance, test scores, and interests. Academic performance is only one factor US institutions’ admissions board will consider.

How will you pay for your studies in the us?
Tuition, fees, and living costs vary between institutions and states. Families need a financial plan; consider institutions that are affordable.

What type of ­financial aid will you need?
There are many options for financial aid; it can be based on merit, need, talent, leadership or offered on-campus employment, assistantships, and fellowships.

These are important questions to answer to find the American institution that is right for you. The more refined your search, the better your chances in securing admission.

It can take up to 12-18 months to plan, so define your priorities today and begin your search. Download the ‘define your priorities’ worksheet at EducationUSA ( EducationUSA is the US Department of State-supported network of advising centres providing international students with accurate, comprehensive, and current information about how to apply to accredited US institutions of higher education. There are seven EducationUSA centres in India: in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. The US Embassy and consulates can help you find the centre closest to you.

The author is regional director of EducationUSA centres in India and Central Asia, for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the US Department of State