When I was applying to colleges in the U.S., I consumed as much information as possible about this topic. At the beginning stages of my search, however, it was really easy to get stuck and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of resources available. Many of them turned out to be simply advertising schemes or clickbait. Many others were meant only for students who are U.S. citizens.
So here is a list of my go-to websites to begin your search and consult periodically. These are credible and free sources that I recommend to everyone interested in applying to study in the U.S.
EducationUSA should be your first stop when you begin your application process and all the way until you get accepted. Why? Because this is a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State (yes – that’s the same organization that runs American embassies abroad, so you will deal with them quite a few times in this process).
The information you will find on the EducationUSA website is 100% credible and is intended specifically for international students. Visit their website to find helpful articles about college admissions, scholarships, and visa interview preparation. Even better: find an EducationUSA advising center that is near you, so you can take part in workshops, training sessions, language clubs organized in your area. The best thing? The information and these events are provided to you for free.
Pro tip: Follow EducationUSA on social media, because they often post scholarship announcements there. Make sure to follow the EducationUSA centers from your country and/or region, too!
Websites of each standardized test you plan to take
This is straightforward. If you plan to take the TOEFL test, you should first familiarize yourself with rules and policies of the test from the original source – the test makers themselves. Usually, there will be at least one free sample test available for download on their website, too. Here are the links to the most common standardized tests for university admissions in the U.S.:
- TOEFL: www.ets.org/toefl
- IELTS: www.ielts.org
- SAT: www.collegeboard.org
- ACT: www.act.org
- GRE: www.ets.org/gre
- GMAT: www.mba.com
- LSAT: www.lsac.org/lsat
- MCAT: www.aamc.org
Speaking of standardized tests, Khan Academy can help you prepare to study for them. In my experience, certain topics and subjects are taught differently in the U.S. compared to other countries. For example, there are slight differences in the way functions are taught in American schools and if you haven’t been exposed to them, basic questions on the SAT or ACT might cause you trouble. This is why Khan Academy is extremely useful, because it’s a platform where many school subjects are taught via videos, practice tests, and even a built-in Question and Answer component. In this way, you will see how these subjects are taught in American schools and hopefully avoid getting stuck during the test.
Pro tip: Khan Academy has a special section called Test Prep.
It’s worth checking out!
This is a great forum with a wealth of information about college admissions in the U.S. I used this website to find advice about writing my college essay, to learn about different majors and minors, and to research colleges I was interested in. Be aware though: the primary audience for this website are American students and their parents. Because of that, some of the advice you see there might not apply to you as an international student – especially the one regarding financial aid. There is also a section specifically dedicated to international students on their website, so that’s a great place to start.
Institute of International Education (IIE)
IIE is a nonprofit organization that focuses on international education, exchange program administration, policy research, and much more. As a prospective international student, you should check out the following two sections of their website:
- Find a program: www.iie.org/Programs
This will help you find a scholarship or an exchange program that is currently managed by IIE.
- Funding for U.S. study: www.fundingusstudy.org/
This is more like a scholarship database offered by IIE. In my experience, if you find a scholarship for which you are eligible, you might realize that there is no link provided for you to apply for it. No problem! Copy the name of the scholarship and the university name and paste them into a Google search. That should help you find the correct link to the application form on the university website.
An awesome website that has a database of scholarships and fellowships to help you fund your studies. In order to gain access to this database, you need to create an account (isn’t that how it always works?). Make sure to filter the Citizenship Requirement field to your citizenship. Otherwise, you will see way too many fellowships, you’ll get excited, and then realize you don’t qualify for many of them.
Sigh. That happened to me way too many times.
Also, many of the fellowships listed there are targeted towards students pursuing graduate studies – not so much undergrad.
The College Board website was briefly mentioned earlier when we talked about the SAT. So why am I bringing up this website again?
Well, this time I want to highlight their College & University Search feature. This will help you get an understanding of the major stats about a particular college you are reviewing: a breakdown of the degrees students are majoring in; average amount of financial aid; graduation rates; and so on. This can be a great start towards learning something more in-depth about a specific college – the objective data, that is.
There are many other websites that do a similar kind of aggregations (like U.S. News & World Report, for instance). However, U.S. News focuses a little too much on rankings in my opinion.
I would use the Reviews section of Unigo to get some insights about the culture on college campuses or what some students think of their school. In some cases, you might find things that are not advertised in marketing brochures. Maybe the campus is so spread out that you’ll need to have a car? Or maybe this college has a student-led film festival? Or a farm on campus? You never know.
Take those reviews with a grain of salt, especially if someone is being extremely negative or unrealistically positive. At the end of the day, these reviews are simply someone’s opinion.
Pro tip: I would not use Unigo for scholarships as an international student (even though it’s being marketed as a tool for scholarships), because many of them are specifically designed for students who are U.S. citizens.
Yes, YouTube! You can watch Youtube videos about the college you are applying to! Many of them are professionally produced in order to market the school, but some of them are filmed by students themselves. Both of these kinds of videos will help you in your college search. The first type is obviously designed to show the college in the best light. So that would be a good way to start learning about a school (emphasis on start). The second kind (videos filmed by students) will help you find “insider” information that is not written on official websites or pamphlets. This will be good for you to know for your general knowledge about the school and for you to write your essays. This can also act as a “replacement” for not being able to go on college tours.
Pro Tip: Many schools are starting to post some of their lectures online (on YouTube and other platforms). So if you watch them, you can make a point about taking a virtual course from a professor at their college already and tie that with your future studies. This will show schools that you are being proactive.
Official websites of colleges and universities you’re applying to
If you aren’t doing so already, you should explore the websites of each school you are applying to in depth (once you know where you want to apply, of course). There are many scholarships that are administered by colleges and universities themselves. Sometimes these opportunities end up in scholarship databases, but sometimes they don’t (especially if it’s a newly established program or fund). So each school’s website can have hidden gems in it – it’s up to you to do your research and find them.
Thanks for reading! If there are any other websites that you have found helpful in your application process, feel free to comment below. Also, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest news about college admissions and tips for making your application stronger.