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students researching financing options

Step 1: Overview

Research Your Options

The first step to studying in the United States is researching your options to find a college or university that best fits your needs. You shouldn't try to match yourself to the school, but rather find the school that matches you and your priorities and long-term goals.

Remember that no official ranking system exists for colleges and universities in the United States. The best college or university is the one that is best for you and meets your requirements—academic, financial, and personal.

At least 12 to 18 months prior to the academic year in which you hope to attend a U.S. college or university, you should begin your research. Start by answering these basic questions and looking at the more specific 'define your priorities' pages under each level of study in this section:

  • Why do you want to study in the United States?
  • Where will you fit in best? 
  • Which colleges or universities will meet your needs? 
  • Will you need financial assistance?
  • What are the application and financial aid deadlines?
  • Where do you want to live in the United States?

Choose your level of study (e.g. undergraduate, graduate, etc.) to learn more about researching your options. Keep in mind that the schools you apply to must be certified by the Student Exchange Visitor Program. You can find a searchable list of certified schools on the Department of Homeland Security's Study in the State's website.

Good to Know

Application and financial aid deadlines affect when you take standardized tests because test results must reach admissions offices no later than their application deadlines.