Step 2: Finding a matching university

Once you know what kind of program you are looking for, it is time to research the various potential universities. Find out which colleges offer courses that match your needs and see if you can find out how these are taught, and by whom. Not all colleges are the same: some schools only offer programs at a Master’s level, while others focus on a select amount of PhD programs. Other, larger schools might have a larger amount of Master’s and PhD programs available. Remember that all American schools are free to use their own admission standards. It is possible that one of the schools you are interested in uses a completely different set of standards than another, similar university.

Make sure you research which universities are highly rated in the fields that you want to study. What kinds of programs do they offer, what are the costs, and do they offer financial support?

What are your possibilities?

Start by listing ten to twenty universities that match your strengths and ambitions. You can use the following resources to help narrow your selection of universities.


Program criteria

  • The content and structure of the programs that match your field. See which courses are mandatory, the available electives, etc.
  • The research specializations of the department and the expertise of the faculty staff member you intend to work with.
  • The qualifications held by the professors in your department hold.
  • The student to faculty ratio. This is the number of students compared to the available faculty staff.
  • Specific admission requirements, such as essential work experience for certain professional Master’s programs or specific professional experience required for certain PhD programs. Remember to assess your chances of admission before applying to each university. Many graduate programs publish an overview of average test scores of all admitted students. This can give you an idea of your own chances of admission.
  • The competitiveness the program. How many students apply, and how many spots are available?
  • The quality and availability of research facilities such as the library, laboratories and others.


Financial criteria

Make sure to research potential ways in which you can finance your degree. Find out what the yearly fees will be at all universities you’re considering, and see if the institutions themselves offer financial aid. You can find more information about finances and potential scholarships, including Fulbright scholarships, on the page about fees and scholarships.


Personal fit

Academic fit and funding opportunities are important, but you should also prioritize institutions that you can call home for your university experience in the USA. Don’t forget to ask yourself where you would feel the most comfortable. Some things you can think about when considering your personal fit are:


  • Location in the country itself.
  • Campus and university size. Larger institutions offer more academic options, but smaller institutions can accommodate personal academic preferences.
  • Academic environment (do you prefer a competitive environment, or do you prioritize a more inclusive place. Do you value your independence or is support and guidance important to you?).
  • Facilities and extracurricular opportunities.


University Accreditation

Once you have narrowed down to your shortlist, it is important to ascertain that all programs are accredited. There is no federal standard for higher education institutions in the US, and the country does not use one standard of accreditation like the Netherlands. Institutions in the US are accredited by several regional, and occasionally program-specific organizations. Find out if your university is accredited and if so, by whom. Additionally, find out if there are professional bodies in your field that accredit university programs. If so, make sure the faculty of the university you intend to apply to is accredited by this body.

Below you find a list of the most well-known accreditation bodies. Are you in doubt about the accreditation status of your university? Feel free to contact us for further advice.

Nationale accreditatie organisaties:

Make sure that all accreditation is recognized by the US Department of Education of CHEA.

Regional accreditation organizations:


Professional accreditation bodies by field:


Finding a university

You can find out whether a program matches your personal needs by talking to professors at your current institution, or the one you previously graduated from. They can help you find schools or specialists within your field. Contact the program coordinator at these schools to ensure that your university is a good fit. You can find further information in professional literature, reference books and study guides. Several study guides can be consulted at the Fulbright Commission. Contact us to set up an appointment to view these resources.

The following online search engines let you search for universities based on your preferences:


Carnegie Classification

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education lists US universities by:

  • Highest degree awarded at a specific institution.
  • Research activity (high, average, low).
  • Special focus schools with programs in specific fields (such as engineering of law).

The following listings might be useful:

Universities listed by highest degree awarded.

List of graduate programs by subject focus.



Rankings can be useful tools when choosing a university, although opinions on the system vary greatly. When consulting rankings, make sure the criteria used in the ranking are similar to criteria that are important to you. Rankings are created based on a wide variety of things. Some don’t rate the quality of teaching or graduate prospects, and some give weight to the university’s budget, fame, or acceptance percentages, while other ratings rely specifically on one faculty or program. Rankings can be useful tools, but shouldn’t be the only method you use to choose a university. A personal and academic fit is much more important than a ranking.

The best-known organizations for rankings of US universities are: