Researching American universities and useful tools


The whole excruciating searching and applying process for American universities are overwhelming. There are tons of information out there on the universities’ website that you will have to go through and sometimes you just do not know where the hell to start. My friend, I was there and to be honest, I initially hated that. However, that discomfort turned into interest by the time I knew what steps I needed to take in researching university and what tools I could use to make this process less intimidating. I really hope that by sharing my experience here, I can help you save more time and energy in your search of the right university.

STEP 1: Determine your major and financial affordability

Choosing a MAJOR that you want to study in college requires consideration of your ability, interest and a future career that you can have out of it. However, do not worry about making the right/perfect choice right now because there is no such thing. The reality is many students change their major billions times during their four years in college! So don’t sweat it.

Understanding your FINANCIAL AFFORDABILITY is paramount. Knowing how much your parents can afford to pay for your college will practically narrow your choices down and put less financial burden on your family. Make sure to discuss this matter with your parents. There are ridiculously expensive schools out there and there are still several wonderful schools with more affordable tuition. And let me tell you this: American community colleges are wonderful and might save you thousands of dollars for the same quality education. So don’t look over community colleges. Consider all to find the best!

STEP 2: Look for schools that have high ranking IN THE MAJOR you choose

The overall ranking of a school is based on many criteria. A school that ranks number one in The Princeton Review is not necessarily a perfect school for you. There are 10 wonderful websites for you to find out most information of a school (link below). Look for the school that has the best study environment, best resources and extensive opportunities for the major you choose. However, remember that the accurate information is ALWAYS on a school’s website and provided by its admission counselors.

STEP 3: Consider financial aid/scholarships

Again, without money, you are not going anywhere. Most scholarship information can be found on a school’s website with specific criteria and amounts. Do contact the admission counselor to find out a school’s financial policy and your eligibility. They will assist you in any way they can.

STEP 4: Compare and narrow down

If you have already had a list of, let say, 25 schools that you are interested in, you should probably narrow down your choices. Why? Because to my belief, focusing your time and energy on perfecting your application to each school will gain you higher chance of admission. Having too many schools to apply only costs you more money and exhausts you. To make comparisons, I especially recommend This is a great website for you to make a list of schools you like, compare them based on several criteria and read students’ reviews. It also accurately evaluates your chance of being admitted to a school based on your provided information and other students’ report of their admission.

STEP 5: Make a chart of important information
Use Microsoft Excel to list important information such as application deadline, tuition, scholarships, questions you have for admission counselors, etc. Keep everything organized and contact the admission counselors constantly for any information you need.

STEP 6: Start preparing the basic application documents
Start your personal essays, take SAT and TOEFL tests, write CV, ask for recommendation letters,… These are definitely necessary documents for your application so start early. Do not wait for the deadline. The sooner you apply the higher chance of admission and scholarships.

I hope that these steps are helpful in your search of the right university. Good luck with your application!

Jen Tran – Social Media Assistant


Learn more about Greenhandshake.