Exploring Options for Undergraduate Study? Some on-line resources you may not have seen before…

Interested in undergraduate study in the United States? You’ll find many different academic programs at many different kinds of colleges and universities in the States. The U.S. offers an incredible diversity of institutions of higher learning – public and private, large and small. Many offer fine opportunities for academic study.  The difference between them is a matter not of quality of but the kind of educational experience provided and the disciplinary areas of concentration available. How to find the right match?

Do you want small classes with lots of interaction with faculty instructors and your fellow students? Do you want attentive, personalized academic advising by full-time professors who know their institution well? Do you want to live on campus in a residential hall? Are you seeking financial assistance? Are you interested in summer undergraduate research opportunities? Do you hope to engage in well-structured internships connected to your area of study? Do you want to combine study within a major with an exploration of a variety of academic subject areas? Are you interested in ‘double-majoring’ (that is, in combining two major concentrations such as music and physics, or business administration and political science)? If your answer to one or more of these questions is ‘yes,’ you should consider applying to a liberal arts college such as Monmouth.

How to find out what kinds of colleges and universities are available? Here’s a list of resources that will include some valuable sources of information that are not usually highlighted for prospective international students. But let’s start with the resource that is, rightly, always at the top of the list:  EducationUSA (http://educationusa.state.gov/) is the branch of the U.S. State Department that provides information and advice to students interested in study in the States. You will find a step-by-step guide to study in the United States here, as well as information about student visas, aspects of the application process, financial assistance, and more. EducationUSA is a fabulous resource. Start here!

IIE (the Institute of International Education) provides an excellent overview of financial assistance opportunities for international students at its website Funding for U.S. Study (http://www.fundingusstudy.org/). 

As you explore the many options available, these webpages may also be of help. First, you are likely to come upon terms that categorize colleges and universities:  liberal arts, private, public, regional, research 1, four-year, baccalaureate, comprehensive, and so on. Most of these terms come from the on-going classifying work of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which has been sorting and organizing the wide (and wild) diversity of U.S. colleges and universities into logical categories for many years. The Carngie classification system was launched in 1970; the classification system has been amended and updated several times, notably in 2005 and 2010.  Older terms that the Foundation dropped are still in common use. You will find an excellent database with nuanced search capacity and highly informative definitions of the many different kinds of institutions of higher education in the United States at http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/.  Note that the Carnegie classifications are exactly that – an organizing of colleges and universities by various criteria (public, private, four-year, graduate, liberal arts, professional, etc.) – and not a ‘ranking system.’ 

The United States does not have a non-profit, federally approved or administered ‘ranking’ system for colleges and universities. All such ranking systems are done by for-profit businesses (usually journals or newspapers) and vary widely in their usefulness and degree of relative accuracy, which depends, of course, on what they measure and what data or opinions they gather to determine those measures.

The major federal source of information about accredited colleges and universities is called College Navigator (http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/) and is the searchable portal of the National Center for Education Statistics. This is an excellent resource as you seek information about particular colleges and universities. It has a comparative function that enables you to select several colleges and universities and compare them using the variables of most interest to you. 

U-CAN (University and College Accountability Network) is a searchable database with user-friendly graphical representation of basic information about academic programs, student demographics and financial assistance, sponsored by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU): http://www.ucan-network.org/.  U-CAN is intended to help you glean basic information about colleges and universities ‘at a glance.’

College Board provides a College Search database at https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college-search.

You will find useful (and, I’d argue, interesting!) information about colleges and universities in the United States at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) – http://www.aacu.org/; The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) – http://www.cic.edu/Pages/default.aspx (and see ‘Making the Case for Independent Education’ at http://www.cic.edu/Research-and-Data/Making-the-Case/Pages/Main-Search-and-Information.aspx); and CollegeNews.org (http://collegenews.org/), the website of the Annapolis Group, a consortium of outstanding private colleges. These organizations are very helpful, especially if you are interested in an excellent undergraduate educational experience at a college or university providing a liberal arts education in which intensive study in a major is complemented with a variety of courses across a range of disciplines.

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