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How to Choose Your U.S. University: 5 Things to Consider Other Than Ranking

Do you have a list of your top 10 U.S. universities that you would like to apply to? Maybe you are just starting to research. If your decision isn’t set, then we want to give you some tips on what you should be looking for when comparing universities.
Do you have a list of your top 10 U.S. universities that you would like to apply to? Maybe you are just starting to research. If your decision isn’t set, then we want to give you some tips on what you should be looking for when comparing universities.  

We know that ranking is important. The #1 school is at the top for a reason. But just like every person is unique, each university is different. Sometimes the school that you think is right for you may not actually be the best choice.

Whether or not you work with us here at Epro 360, you will eventually find yourself in the same position as many of our students: with a list of universities you want to apply to.  

Ranking is a great way to narrow down the list because it provides you with the foundation of quality. But when you sit down to compare your top choices, here are 5 important factors to help you find out what each university or degree program can offer you.

If you started off by ranking, then you probably did not want to consider your budget first. But as an Epro 360 University Coordinator, who does research for our students, I know it is probably the first priority for your parents. Going to college is not the only expense you (or your parents) have. Maybe you even have other siblings, which may affect the amount that you have to spend.

It may not feel as exciting to set a budget when you’re looking for your perfect school, but it will save you time. With more than 5,000 universities in the U.S., why spend time getting excited about a school that you know is out of budget?

If you are distracted by the “what if” schools, you may also overlook some amazing programs and schools that could be a great fit for you and your career goals.


Most students that come to us have a preference of where they would like to live. But we encourage our students to be a little flexible when it comes to location. The reason being that there are amazing schools and programs in cities and towns that you may have never heard of.

When comparing or considering location, here are some U.S. cultural aspects to keep in mind:

  • Distances between cities and towns in the U.S. can be quite big. Also, areas outside cosmopolitan cities do not always have well-structured public transportation systems. This means that there is a huge driving culture in the U.S. If you don’t like to drive you may want to be in a bigger city (or at least close to one). If you’re lucky, you’ll also make a friend who brings their car to school their first year.
  • If you do want a big city, you have to be prepared to pay to live there. Cost of living in major cities like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco can be double the cost of other cities in the U.S.
  • We understand that you may have dreamt of living in a particular city or state. But one thing that many students (American and international) don’t realize is that your first couple of years are very involved in campus life. You’ll have so many new experiences thrown at you from clubs to on-campus events that you’ll sometimes forget to even explore the area surrounding you. When you’re busy going to class, doing group projects, and studying, you’ll probably choose convenience.

Class Size

Everyone has different learning styles, and it’s easy to get excited about a university’s ranking so much that you don’t consider what environment you can excel in most. In high school you don’t usually have the opportunity to choose how and what you want to learn. But when applying to college, you can make all of these decisions.

When I had to apply to colleges, I knew it was important for me to have a more personalized and intimate learning experience. I like classrooms that feel like a community, where you actually know the names (or at least the faces) of the people in your class. I felt that I would get more out of my education in smaller classes rather than huge lecture halls where the professor doesn’t really know your name. I didn’t want to be 1 of 200. I wanted to be 1 of 20.

Small classes were important for me. But maybe bigger classes are better for you. Whichever it is, what’s important is that you know what will help you make the most out of your learning experience.

Research Focus

There are a lot of professors out there who have big research plans, and teaching gives them an opportunity to receive funding.

If research is something that you are interested in, it’s worth putting in some extra time to find out what professors are in the department at your potential university and if they are leading any research projects.

You can also compare degree programs at different universities to see which ones focus more on practical learning rather than just theoretical learning.  Depending on your personal career goals, getting more practical experience can be more beneficial and even help you with your future job search.

Campus Culture

If you have never been to an American university campus or know someone who has, your idea may be limited to what TV shows and movies have shown you. But you cannot imagine how campus culture can differ from school to school.  

There are private schools, public schools, religious schools, big schools, and the list goes on. People often think of big sports events, as well. But not all schools are so highly focused on athletics.

A lesser known fact is that many schools in the U.S. have a religious affiliation. Schools fall on different sides of this, however. Some schools have strict moral guidelines where a religious curriculum is required. Others have a historical affiliation but are open to all religions and beliefs. So, if you find what you think is a religious school, don’t automatically cross it off your list. Do some investigating. They might actually have a program that’s right for you.

If you found this article helpful but don’t feel like doing all the research on your own, get your free consultation today. Find out how we can help make your college application process easier.

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