There are over four thousand colleges and universities in the United States. It is confusing for a student to choose a good university because you would have to do a lot of research to narrow down the list to five to ten colleges to apply to. And, you might be excited about it as well because it is always interesting to have choices in life. USEF-Nepal advises you to choose your colleges wisely because this is the first and foremost important step in the college application process. You have to consider many factors while applying to a school.
While applying to colleges in the U.S., do not just apply to very competitive colleges. USEF- Nepal recommends you to select ‘Reach’, ‘Match’ and ‘Safety’ colleges. Reach colleges are competitive colleges offering scholarships that you can realistically expect to get into depending upon your qualifications. Match colleges are those that matches your credentials (GPA/Percentage, TOEFL score and SAT/ACT scores) and these colleges might offer generous amounts of scholarships as well. Safety colleges are those that have an open admissions policy. However, safety colleges would not provide much scholarship. Analyze your credentials and your financial need and have a good mix of reach, match and safety colleges when you are choosing colleges to apply to. USEF-Nepal would like to suggest you to consider the following eight factors while you are researching the colleges in the U.S.

Major

Your major is your field of study. You should choose colleges that offer your intended major. Even if you are undecided about your major, make sure that the colleges you are applying to offer majors you might be interested to pursue in the future. USEF-Nepal recommends you to use the ‘Book of Majors’ at our library to choose colleges according to your major. Alternately, you might also visit websites like www.collegeboard.org and www.petersons.com


Total Cost and Average Scholarship
You need to know the cost of attending a college and the average scholarship available to international students while choosing a college. If you need a scholarship, you would want to choose a college that provide relatively higher scholarships. You may also ask the college if they have a provision of providing a full-ride to international students. Therefore, consider the total cost, average scholarship and your financial need while choosing colleges.


Standardized Tests
While choosing a college, it is crucial to know the requirement of the colleges you are considering. While it is mandatory to take the TOEFL to apply to U.S. colleges, the minimum score requirement varies according to the college. Most competitive colleges require a score of 100 out of 120 on the TOEFL.  Although there is no minimum score requirement for the SAT and the ACT, you should look at the average scores of previously admitted students to get an idea about the college. Compare these scores with your projected scores to have a better idea about the best fit colleges.


Competitiveness
You should know how difficult it is to get into a certain college before applying to that college. If an institution accepts less than twenty-five percent of the applicants, it is a highly selective college. If you are only applying to highly selective colleges, you are making it difficult for yourself to get into colleges. Therefore, in addition to reach colleges, you should also find your match and safety colleges that accept higher percentage of applicants.


Location
You should also consider location while selecting colleges because U.S. is a huge country where the culture, environment and weather vary greatly with location. Since you will be spending four years of your life at that place, it is certainly important to consider location while choosing colleges. Decide whether you would like to go to colleges in urban, sub-urban or rural areas and apply to colleges accordingly. Also, if you are allergic to cold, avoid colleges located in the areas where it snows for six months in a year!  In addition, since the cost of living depends on where you are in the U.S., location is an important factor to consider while selecting colleges.


Size
Size is an important consideration while selecting schools in the U.S. because there are colleges with less than one thousand students and there are universities with more than fifty thousand students. A small college and a large university have their own advantages—at a small college you would get more personal attention whereas at a large university you might get more course choices, research facilities and so on. Therefore, you will have to think carefully about your preferences in terms of the size of an institution and choose colleges accordingly.


Accreditation
Accreditation is a process to ensure that an institution provides quality education. USEF-Nepal recommends you to apply to institutions in the U.S. that are ‘Regionally Accredited’ because this is the highest form of accreditation. Choosing a regionally accredited college will ensure that the standards are maintained and your degree will be properly recognized once you graduate from such institutions.

Retention Rate
Retention rate is the percentage of the first year students that a college is able to retain for the second year. This might be a better indicator than ranking to determine whether you would be happy in a college or not. For instance, if a college has a retention rate of more than ninety percentage, you know that the college is taking good care of its students and most students are satisfied there. USEF-Nepal recommends you to choose a college that has at least seventy percentage freshman retention rate.


U.S. offers a lot of variety in terms of institutions of higher education. You do not want to end up in a college that does not challenge you to do better. USEF-Nepal recommends you to decide what you want for yourself and then try to find a college that matches your personality and your priority. If you keep USEF-Nepal’s suggestions in mind while choosing colleges, you would find colleges that suit you and you would have a pleasant college experience in the U.S.

USEF-Nepal’s EducationUSA Advising Center offers accurate, reliable, unbiased, and free information and advice and is the only official source in Nepal on studying in the USA. Visit us in Gyaneswor, Kathmandu. ‘Like’ USEF on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usef.nepal and subscribe to our e-group by sending a blank email to usef_nepal-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.