How International Students Can Gauge U.S. College Fit 2017

Studying overseas in a new place can be intimidating. But there are things an international student can look for in a U.S. college or university to make the transition more comfortable and the experience more beneficial.

It’s all about finding a good fit, admissions experts say.

“Fit encompasses a lot of things,” says Lindsay Addington, associate director of international initiatives at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. She says a school that’s a good fit will meet a student’s expectations with regard to academics, extracurricular activities, postgraduation plans and more.

U.S. News asked admissions experts and others to explain, more specifically, the criteria prospective international students should consider to determine whether a U.S. school is a good match.

• Does this school have what I’m looking for academically? The first thing students need to look into when researching colleges and universities is whether a school offers the major they’re interested in.

“That’s the No. 1 key because you’re about to spend a lot of money and a lot of years working toward a degree,” says Djuana Young, associate vice president for enrollment at Texas Wesleyan University.

Students should also think early on about whether they are interested in a liberal arts program or a more narrowly focused degree program, says Gail Berson, vice president for enrollment and dean of admission and financial aid at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Liberal arts programs provide undergraduates with a more general education in the humanities, sciences and social sciences, as opposed to having a professional or technical emphasis.

[Explore the 10 National Liberal Arts Colleges with the most international students.]

Addington says students should try to identify the type of learning environment in which they perform best – for example, does a student feel more comfortable in smaller classes? This can help them determine whether they would be more likely to succeed at a small, mid-size or large school.

Additionally, students should make sure they meet, or come close to meeting, the academic criteria for international student applicants at the institutions they are considering, says Stephen Lazowski, vice president for enrollment management at Marietta College in Ohio. To do this, prospective students can check school websites to see if their own high school grades and standardized test scores – such as IELTS or TOEFL scores – are within the range of what the school is looking for.

• Will my needs be met outside of the classroom? Experts advise students to think about the type of location they’ll be most comfortable in – such as a big city versus a small town – since the U.S. is a large and geographically diverse country. The culture of a campus and the surrounding community is a further consideration.

[Learn how to research campus politics and culture.]

Another factor is whether a student has friends or family in the area. Such connections can provide additional support during a student’s time in the States.

The extracurricular opportunities available on campus can be one more component of fit, according to admissions experts and the following Twitter user.