FINDING YOUR FUTURE HOME
With so many universities in the United States, it is important to consider the following factors when choosing universities:
Admission to some U.S. colleges and universities is highly competitive, especially for international students. For the majority of students, it is more practical to find a quality institution where they will be academically challenged, rather than insisting on attending one of the top 50 universities in the United States. Also note, rankings are not always based upon factors that could be most important to you.
No matter what school you decide to commit to you want to be playing your sport somewhere where the team is competitive and you will develop as a student-athlete. The division, conference and recent record of the sports team all provide a strong indication of this but also remember it is not unusual for a team to significantly improve from one year to another due to maybe a change of coach or funding opportunities.
At American universities you do not have to decide your major when you first enroll. However, if you know what you wish to study, make sure that each of the universities to which you apply has an accredited program in this area. Almost all universities offer popular majors, such as business and IT, but if you are interested in more specialized field, such as archaeology, it is important to check ahead.
Geographic region and location can be highly influential. You will be living in the United States for years and where you choose to study could affect your overall experience and your access to professional opportunities. The U.S spans six time zones and offers a wide range of geographic and cultural diversity, climates and ways of life. Some cities might not be famous in other countries, but are well known “college towns” with relatively low cost of living and a high quality of life such as Lawrence, Kansas, and Wisconsin.
America is obviously a very big place and therefore the climate and average temperatures can vary from state to state. For example, Alaska has an average temperature of -5 in January while Florida is 16. Obviously people acclimatise to their surroundings; however, some people would naturally rather live in a warmer climate while others wouldn’t.
Each university has its own distinct atmosphere. It is important to choose the place that is the best fit for you. You may want to consider what type of experience you are looking for – an academically rigorous experience or more of a balance between your academic demands and extracurricular interests.
Tuition and fees rates can vary significantly from university to university. The cost of living can vary by location as well, with some parts of the U.S having a lower cost of living than others (such as universities in suburban or rural areas or in the South and Midwest). Also, the funding available for international students can change drastically between institutions. As you consider universities you may want to visit the financial aid page of their website to see what funding they have available.
Research each school’s admission standards and how your record will measure up against them to see your probability of being admitted. Some of the top-tier U.S universities have an admission rate of 10%. Be aware that most colleges and universities base their admissions decision on academic performance. Scores on standardized admissions tests are important, but your grades from school are more important.
ADDITIONAL FACTORS TO CONSIDER
It is not unusual for a top NCAA D1 soccer programme to have a roster of over 50 players including their Junior Varsity team, so this may mean places for spots on the team are incredibly competitive and you may not get much playing time in your first season. This can particularly be true for goalkeepers if they go to a team that already has 2 or 3 more senior players in that position.
CITY, SUBURB OR TOWN?
Concentrating the issue of location, the type of area can be as important as the region. Be aware that the majority of universities are not located in the center of large cities such as New York, San Francisco or Chicago. Many of the great universities—that attract thousands of international students each year—are in small cities, even towns. This can be a very big adjustment for students from huge cities, so take that into consideration. Yet, tens of thousands of students each year settle into their studies in small cities or towns. Most people can adapt to a new reality. If living in a metropolitan or large city is really important to you, there are hundreds of schools in the heart of major cities but they are typically more expensive.
Try to calculate the total cost for your studies, including living expenses. You can often get this information on a colleges’ websites. Elite, private colleges and universities usually have higher tuition costs than public universities. Generally speaking, the areas away from the East and West Coasts have a lower cost of living, in some cases, considerably lower. California’s two excellent university systems—University of California and California State University—have dozens of attractive campus locations with relatively inexpensive tuition. But, the cost of living can often be twice that in other states, so your total cost may be higher in California.
When starting your search for a school and team in America being able to work on campus might not be high on your list of priorities; however, once out there you will realize that having a source of income can make a big difference and enable you to enjoy your experience more. Because with an F1 student visa you are unable to work off campus it usually means the school will give you prioritisation for job opportunities on campus that become available – these jobs can range from assisting your coach or being a teaching assistant to working in the library or campus café.