For some international students, going to America for college is an obvious choice. They may have American parents or have been born there themselves, or perhaps they attended a summer program in the States that piqued their interest. But for others, the idea of moving to a new country for university can be overwhelming.
We’ve already taken you through a breakdown of what kinds of academic and social experience to expect from several different US regions, as well as from the different types of American higher education institutions.
This month, though, we wanted to zoom out a bit to discuss some of the main reasons that studying in the US is an opportunity worth considering. Of course American universities are often well known for their prestige and reputation, but there are several lesser-known benefits to a US university education that you may not be familiar with yet.
One of the most exciting elements of applying to college in the US is the vast array of choice. While many countries offer a handful of exceptional university options, America has hundreds. No matter how obscure your field of study or random your extracurricular passion, you’re likely to find an American college that perfectly suits your interests. The plethora of choices can at times can at times be overwhelming for applicants, but will also provide a sense of relief and allow you to build a well-rounded college list full of exciting options.
Thanks to film and pop culture, there is no shortage of popular conceptions surrounding the American college experience.
While some depictions are of course exaggerated, there is good reason for this reputation. American universities offer a “collegiate” experience that is difficult to find elsewhere. In addition to the academic rigor or job potential that a certain university offers, it’s important to consider the campus culture. While each one is different, a major commonality among US colleges and universities is that students are usually engaged with the campus community beyond the classroom.
From living in a residential college or fraternity house, to attending sports games, to getting involved in social justice causes, the American university experience offers a unique form of camaraderie and bonding. In all likelihood, if you someday meet someone from the same university—even many years after you’ve graduated—you’re likely to find a multitude of memories and traditions through which you connect.
US liberal arts colleges, in particular, are wholly or mostly focused on undergraduate education and boast low student to faculty ratios. Because professors’ first priority is teaching undergraduates, students are able to access their teachers in office hours, receive prompt responses to inquiries, and develop connections that could result in anything from a research opportunity to a great recommendation letter. Many who have studied in the US think fondly of a time when a professor invited the whole class over for Sunday supper or a class lunch on the college green.
While many international universities require students to apply to a specific course and make changing academic focus midway through a degree difficult, most American colleges offer a greater degree of flexibility. With the exception of certain degrees (engineering for example), applicants are not committed to one course of study. Students usually have until the end of their sophomore year to declare a major.
Whether it’s the person who came into college pre-med and discovered their love for creative writing or the student who thought they hated STEM until they took a seminar on oceanography, it is common (if not encouraged!) for students to follow a winding path that leads them to their interests and passions.
The past decade or so has also seen a rise in interdisciplinary degrees made available to undergraduates. Increasingly, US colleges and universities offer students the opportunity to study a broad liberal arts curriculum that combines classes from different departments, and some schools even allow undergraduates to develop their own independent major combining a set of interests and academic disciplines unique to the student.
There is, of course, no denying the costs associated with going to college in the US, but it’s important to also highlight the abundance of resources that comes alongside that. Students who attend American universities are often pleased to discover how many resources are dedicated to their success, including state-of-the-art technology in classrooms and labs, large career services departments that will help them secure an internship, delicious on-campus dining options, or the large budgets given to student-run clubs and activities.