It is all too confusing for international students!


Selecting a college or university is a challenging task for many students and parents. Information overload about US colleges and universities is tremendous and comes at parents and domestic and international students from all directions and in recent times, from all over the world. Today recruiting international students is the goal of many colleges and universities all over the world, and not just the


as it used to be until just a few years ago. This is because colleges and universities understand the power of creating a “mini world” within their campuses, but more important, Presidents of educational institutions know that recruiting international students is lucrative to the bottom line! 

Unfortunately, it is difficult to sift the “truth” from “media messages” in one of the most important and life-changing decisions that parents and students will make in their lifetime. The challenge of college selection is exponentially greater for international students and their families and this is the case in spite of technology (or may be because of technology?). International students often struggle to find an ideal school at an affordable price that will deliver the goods and eventually result in a dynamic career. There are no short cuts and if you are committed to getting the best education for the best price, you must do your homework!


In my previous post, I wrote about the importance of being careful and thoughtful in how you select a college or university. I emphasized the importance of closely studying facts about the institutions and examining how it fits with your educational needs. In this post, I want to share with you the importance of the statement: Know Thyself!


Before you select a college or university, you must have a clear idea as to what you are looking for in a college or university. You may not know exactly what you wish to study or your career goals and that is okay. I will discuss five simple things you must consider even before you browse through the web pages of colleges and universities and I will cover these five issues in my future posts also:

  1. Urban or rural? If you are an urban bird, don’t select a school in an isolated rural environment or vice versa.
  2. Small or large? If you like a small intimate setting, selecting a university with 52,000 students  is likely to cause pain!
  3. Career-focused or life-focused? Some colleges and universities are interested in preparing you to deal with life – they believe a career will follow. Others focus on a career – and don’t pay attention to your all-round development. True, no school will admit this! Of course, some are focused on both. If you can find such a college, go for it!
  4. Does anyone look like me? If it is important for you to find students from your cultural, ethnic, or economic background – if you don’t wish to stand out like a sore thumb on a campus and if that is important to you – look at a school with diversity.
  5. Residential or non-residential? Is living on campus important to you or do you want to live on your own? Some colleges have strict residential requirements and hence you should pay attention to this.

Dr. Uma G. Gupta is the President of, a global consulting company that advices educational leaders on campus internationalization issues.


About Dr. Gupta

Dr. Uma G. Gupta is the Founder and President of STEM.SMART, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the pipeline of U.S students interested in STEM careers. In addition, she is the CEO of PlanetGPA, an international student recruitment services that serves as an extension to the recruitment offices of U.S. universities.

One response »

  1. Great entry! I think it is so true for students to first understand the importance of finding a school that is a good fit for them before worrying about for example: “How am I going to get my visa to study in that country?”
    Do you have any thoughts on how to change the mentality of the prospective international student to understand the importance of doing their homework on finding the right institution for them before worrying about immigration issues?

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