An Asian student reads on his tablet.

Ask 3 Questions to Avoid Common U.S. College Search Mistakes

International students shouldn't be afraid to dive deep into U.S. college websites to make an informed application decision.

An Asian student reads on his tablet.

Finding the right U.S. college might take more time than you think, but the result will be a more informed decision.

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​As an international student, I know you have likely already read plenty of articles highlighting mistakes you might end up making as an international student. 

This blog published an article about choosing the right U.S. college major​ that described following the crowd and worrying too much about job prospects as some of those common mistakes. But there are other mistakes international students should watch out for that can happen even earlier in the process. 

When making a list of U.S. schools to apply to, it is not about how well you know a school’s name or about applying to a school that gets hype from your friends. Choosing the right school takes more time than you might expect at first, but it's an important step that will lead you to the right decision before going abroad.

[Get additional information on studying at a U.S. college.] 

While I can't tell you exactly what to do in this process of picking your American dream destination, asking yourself the following questions will help you avoid some of those common mistakes.

1. Where are you seeking information?

Don’t rely only on information from your friends – even if you talk to them frequently about your American dream and they share your passion about going abroad.

Find a credible forum about studying abroad in the U.S. to equip yourself with basic knowledge about American schools and the education system. ​Talk to your high school adviser, your parents’ friends, international alumni in your network or a current student from the schools to which you're considering applying.

Current students and alumni can give you a fresh perspective about campus dynamics as well as discuss their school’s library and academic sources, public transportation availability, city life and other information that you may not find surfing the school's website.

[Know the four things you should look for in a U.S. college.]

This information will help you find solid reasons to apply to certain schools instead of merely following the crowd.

Not all international students have a chance to visit the schools in their list before they apply. Don’t let this prevent you from getting to know your future destination. Speaking with these people for your research may also help you find some great ideas for writing your application essay.

2. How thoroughly did you read the school’s website?

The admissions section should not be the only place you visit on a school’s website. I realized that reading​ student blogs, for instance, gave me a great way to look at the school’s environment.

If you already know which major you want to study, take a look at the course work or do an Internet search for your prospective professors. This information will help you paint a better image of the school’s academic life. I regret that I did not spend more time looking deeper at schools this way when I was doing research.

[Learn how to research U.S. colleges as an international student.]

3. Did you look at the school’s profiles on social networks?

Use the power of the Internet to the fullest to get to know the schools on your list. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social networks might not always be an official place to explore a school, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot use these websites to find some great information to help you narrow down the list of schools you are considering.

You might even be able to make friends with those who are in the same boat with you of applying to a U.S. university. Enlarge your network and embark on your journey.

Be active when researching about U.S. schools, and you might be surprised by the information that shows up during your exploration. Just as schools sort through thousands of applications every year to choose the students who fit their institution, don’t waive this precious chance to choose the school that fits you.