A group of college students on campus

4 Things International Students Should Look for in a U.S. College

International students should make sure to evaluate characteristics other than a college's rankings.

A group of college students on campus

Getting familiar with a school's campus culture is one of the best ways to learn if you'll feel comfortable and happy there as an international student. 

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In recent years, more and more students from around the world have flocked to the U.S. to pursue higher education. As an international student who studies at an American university, I can surely understand why.

The education system is spectacular, and you also get to meet other people from all parts of the world. However, moving from one side of the globe to another can be a challenging experience, and it might not be for everyone. Before you decide which U.S. colleges you'll apply to, you should research the following about each school you're considering to find where you can be a happy and successful student.

1. The level of English proficiency required: One of the first things you notice when moving to a foreign country is the language difference. Of course, if you’re from a country with English as one of its national languages or its primary language, such as Singapore or Australia, you might not have that much difficulty. 

However, many international students will have difficulty with the language at first. Your language skills get put to the test once you arrive in the U.S., because you will need it for your classes, to get groceries, when you’re at the library and so on. 

Some of my friends who are fairly proficient in English say that they still have trouble comprehending their professors' lectures. When you hear people speaking in a language that is not your native language, it might seem like they are speaking really fast. It also takes some time getting used to. 

Universities will have a certain level of English proficiency you need to demonstrate in order to be accepted, and you should certainly take these requirements seriously, as weak skills can greatly affect your ability to perform well in class. If your level of English is not high enough yet, you should consider attending a language class before applying to the university.

[Check out which universities have the most international students.]

2. University academic program rankingsLooking at university rankings is definitely helpful, but they often don’t tell the whole story. Different rankings are based on different standards.

Some universities might focus more on graduate studies, but since the ranking is specifically for undergraduate studies, the university might not have a very high ranking.

Rankings are a good way to narrow down your list of possible universities, but you should also look into the specific programs that each university provides. If you think you might be interested in study abroad programs, then you should look into universities with study abroad programs.

Some universities also have more opportunity for undergraduate research, and more opportunity for undergraduate teaching assistants. Some universities have special connections with certain companies, creating more opportunity for student co-ops and internships.

If you already have some idea of what kind of degree you would like to pursue, it would be helpful to look into the specific department of the university you are interested in attending, and really figure out what each university has to offer. Don’t eliminate a university just because it isn't very high in a ranking.

[See facts and figures about international students at U.S. colleges.]

3. Campus culture: What I mean by school culture is, for example, whether or not sports is a big activity on campus or is followed by many students, what students usually do during the weekends and where students usually study.

Different universities, even though they may have the same level of academic opportunities, might feel extremely different because of the different school culture. The school culture will definitely affect whether or not you feel happy or at home at that university, and this will certainly affect whether or not you perform well in classes.

[Find out what resources are available on campus for international students.]

4. Job placement resources: Some international students hope to find a job in the U.S. once they graduate, and if you're one of them, you should also look into what resources are available for international students seeking U.S. career opportunities after graduation.

Most universities have a record of what students do after graduation, and if they have good alumni relationships, it might also aid your efforts in finding a job – or even an internship.

Researching about universities abroad can be difficult, but there are websites out there, including U.S. News, that make searching for information about U.S. colleges and universities. College Prowler offers rankings of U.S. universities based on less traditional characteristics such as "oldest college in the U.S." or "shortest walk to class." College Confidential is another good resource for international students seeking information.