Step 2: Choosing your university

What to look for?

Once you know what kind of program you want, it is time to research the various potential universities. 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.

Search engines

The following online search engines allow you to search universities based on your preferences:

Collegeboard Big Future College Search

Use the filters included in this search engine to create a list of universities by type (two-year or four-year), majors, necessary test scores, location, size, available sports and activities, and costs. This is an easy way to find universities that meet your needs.


Offers search filters, similar to Collegeboard’s search engine.


Rankings can be useful tools when choosing a university, but keep in mind that rankings rely on wildly varying criteria that aren’t always related to the quality of education. Rankings are based on many different factors: some don’t even consider the quality of teaching or graduate prospects, some give weight to the university’s budget, fame, or acceptance percentages, and other ratings rely specifically on one faculty or program alone. Rankings can be useful tools but shouldn’t be the only method you use during your selection process. A personal and academic fit is much more important than a ranking, and this will be different for everybody.

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

Princeton review

US News and World Report Best Colleges

Colleges that change lives

Aspects to consider

The academic profile and admission requirements vary between universities. It is important to find a university that matches your academic ‘fit’. You do not have to declare your major when you apply to a US university, but it’s always a good idea to investigate your options at each university. If you know what you want to study, make sure the university offers specializations in the areas that interest you.

Also keep the following in mind:

  • The student to faculty ratio

This is the amount of students compared to the available faculty staff. If the student to faculty ratio is 1:20, there will be one professor available for every 20 students. Schools with a smaller ratio have more staff available, which means that classes are more personal.

  • Research options for undergraduate students

These can differ greatly between universities. Some institutions focus mainly on education, while others focus on research – usually the larger research universities. Keep in mind that research at graduate level is uncommon.

  • Internship possibilities

Internships are not a core part of an American education program. Most American students gain work experience during the summer months. Sometimes you can use your university’s connections to find a placement at a particular company i and outside of the region. Some areas are known to have many businesses of a particular industry, such as Silicon Valley.

  • Honors programs and extracurricular activities

See what kinds of opportunities the university offers. One of the perks of an education in the USA is the opportunity to develop yourself outside of your studies.

  • Exchange program options

Next to the high variety of courses, American universities offer the opportunity for personal development through extracurricular activities. Would you like to further develop one of your talents in the US? Make sure to keep this in mind when looking for a university.

Admission requirements vary between universities. Most institutions have an example of a future student’s profile available on their website. Study this carefully and see if you meet the requirements. Some of the top-tier universities in the USA, such as the Ivy League schools, admit fewer than 6% of applicants. However, you still have a good chance to be admitted to a good university in the US.

In general, American universities will be looking at your educational background and grade average (GPA), admission exam scores, and academic profile. Since admission is not guaranteed, it is recommended to apply to several universities.

Your budget is one of the most important factors when choosing a university. Make sure to read the page about financing your studies and scholarship opportunities and set a budget together with your parents. Don’t forget to look at potential scholarship opportunities at your preferred universities.


Academic fit and funding opportunities are important, but you should also consider whether you feel at home at a university during your experience. Four years is a long time. Don’t forget to ask yourself what you want to get out of your time abroad, and where you would feel the most comfortable. Some things you can think about when considering your personal fit are:


  • Location in the country itself, and whether you want to study in a city or a more rural area.
  • Campus and university size. You can choose between small campuses (1000 students), very large campuses (60,000 students), and everything in between.
  • Campus culture. Each American university has its own identity, which draws in certain types of students. Consider where you would feel most at home.


Many American students visit several campuses before they decide on a school. Of course, this is not as easy when you live in the Netherlands. You could consider visiting a couple of universities during your holiday, although it is perfectly possible to research your options from abroad. One way to get to know the school’s character is by meeting their representatives. Keep an eye on our calendar for (virtual) fairs and other opportunities to meet with college and university representatives.

Once you have narrowed down to your shortlist, it is important to ascertain that all your potential 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. Always make sure whether your university is accredited. Below are some of the most prominent professional bodies in your field that accredit university programs. Are you unsure about the university’s accreditation? We are always available to help you with further advice.


National accreditation organizations:

Regional accreditation organizations: