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U.S. Academics: How International Students Should Choose Their U.S. Destinations

For international students, choosing a destination in the U.S. can seem like a daunting task. Let us take care of some of the heavy lifting for you with these important factors to consider!

Aug 16, 2017, 10:02 AM

U.S. colleges and universities attract students from across the globe, but not all schools are created equal. Whether in terms of academics, culture or the surrounding infrastructure, each college offers a different experience, and international students should make sure that experience meets their specific needs.

How International Students Should Choose Their U.S. College:

  1. Read into the Rankings
  2. Take Transportation into Consideration
  3. Research Health Insurance and Local Health Care
  4. Consider Language, Crime, Culture

Importance of Rankings

International students studying in the U.S. want to attend the best schools, but what constitutes the “best” depends on the topic of study. U.S. schools offer a wide variety of different programs and degrees. It is important to research each school's facilities, reputations, and rankings in detail, paying attention to their performance in the chosen field. With over 1 million international students studying in the U.S. each year, fellow student reviews can also be very valuable when making your decision.

International Student Statistic of Students in U.S.

One factor to consider is the difference between U.S. universities’ undergraduate programs and their graduate and professional schools. Emory University, for example, ranks higher than the University of Virginia (UVA) as an undergraduate institution. For those considering law school, however, UVA is widely considered the better of the two. The better a student understands these differences and tailors their applications accordingly, the easier it is to take full advantage of American higher education.

Transportation Matters!

In addition to the quality of the university, international students must consider the infrastructure around that university. In particular, take stock of the available public transportation, as this will be essential for getting to class on time. Transit options in the United States vary wildly from city to city. Some locations have convenient and sophisticated transportation networks. New York City, for example, has an extensive network of subways and buses. A student can thus attend New York University, Columbia University, or other schools in the city without needing to live on campus or obtain a U.S. driver’s license.

On the other hand, some of the best U.S. schools are located in small towns with limited public transit. These include UVA in Charlottesville, Virginia; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Those who attend these schools will either need to obtain a valid driver’s license and a car or live on campus for the duration of their time there. Students should consider the financial and practical burden of these options, and take that into account when making a decision.

Is Your Health Covered?

International students studying in the United States are often required to obtain international student health insurance – either as a requirement by their university or their visa.

They should check these requirements closely, as each university and visa option has specifications for the level of coverage students need. Many universities offer their own health insurance plan, but some offer students the option to opt out – or “waive” this coverage – so they can purchase their own plan. Learn more about submitting a waiver here.

Another important consideration is quality of (and access to) health care. Students should look into the quality and availability of medical facilities near the university they are considering, and how far they would have to travel if a medical emergency were to arise.

Consider Additional Aspects

Besides transportation, school rankings, and health care, international students should also investigate:

  • Languages- Students whose first language is not English may want to study in a town where large numbers of people speak their mother tongue. New York City, for example, has large numbers of Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Korean speakers. Likewise, Dearborn, Michigan, where one of the University of Michigan campuses is located, has large numbers of Arabic speakers.
  • Crime- Violent crime rates vary wildly across the United States. Some cities, like New York, are among the safest in the world, while others are among the most dangerous. Students should consider crime near the universities they want to attend, along with the protection those universities offer.
  • Culture- Whether belonging to the schools themselves or to the surrounding town, theaters, libraries, and other institutions can significantly enhance the college experience while offering an introduction to U.S. culture. Students should see what types of facilities are available around each school.

Finally, Once You've Chosen Your Destination:

International Student Application Checklist

For more information on studying in or traveling to the United States, visit our Student / Scholar page. International Medical Group® (IMG®) offers quality international student health insurance policies that meet J1 visa requirements. View our plans page to get pricing options.

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