International Students : How Do You Choose a School in the US?

Written By Sally Forsyth

If you are thinking about studying in a US high school soon, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. There are so many great options from which to choose. How do you choose a school in the US when there are so many choices? It is really important to do your homework and to research your options before you go on to make a shortlist of your top 5 schools.

So how do you do that? Where do you start? How do you know which school is best for you?

In this article, we are going to look at key aspects you need to consider to choose a school in the US. You need to consider every one of these key aspects in order to make the best choice for your studies in the United States. So read through the categories below and then start researching! The perfect school is out there waiting for you!

Location, location, location

Do you have any preference as to the geographical location of your school? There are excellent schools located all over the US. Do you have a special attraction to the West Coast or the East Coast? Perhaps a school in the Midwest or the South appeals to you more? Here are some important factors to consider when choosing the location of your future school.


There are all kinds of microclimates within the US.  Typically, the Northeast and the Midwest, in places like Boston, New York, and Chicago, have very harsh winters. California, on the other hand, has a fairly mild climate all year round, and in the  South, they do have winter weather, but much less harsh than in the North.


If you want to be near the ocean, then you may want to consider living in California on the West Coast, or in cities like Boston or New York on the East Coast. All of the areas previously mentioned are pretty close to the beaches, where you can practice water sports and enjoy the beach when there is good weather. On the other hand, cities like Chicago may be an option, which is close to the Great Lakes area, and also offers lots of opportunities for outdoor sports.

Access to Local Amenities and City Life

Is it important for you to be living in a big city when you study in the US? There are schools situated in the inner city or the suburbs which may be your best fit. Alternatively, there are schools in small towns or more rural areas which be a better option for you. When you are studying in the US,  the area around the school will become like your second home. You want to pick a place that feels comfortable to you and has access to the local amenities that you like.

Campus and Facilities

What kind of campus and facilities are you looking for in a school? Do you want to study at a school that has amazing computer or robotics labs, or do you prefer to study in a school that has an excellent arts program with a dedicated music or theater studio? Or maybe you want both!

Think about what your ideal campus looks like, and as you research, take notes and make comparisons among the different schools you are investigating.  Do you want to study in a spacious campus with lots of grassy areas or woodlands, or are you happy to study in a less spacious school in the city center?  Also, check out the sports facilities in the schools you are researching to see what they have to offer, especially if you are keen on specific sports like basketball, soccer or general athletics.

Academic curriculum

The academic program  is of course of the utmost importance. Nearly all schools offer AP and Honors courses; but, it´s a good idea to make a comparison of the different courses available and to check out if they have courses you are interested in and that would be suitable for you.

Career counseling and college prep

Another important aspect linked to the academic program is college prep. Does the school give you support for SAT or TOEFL preparation? Scores from these exams are typically required to be noted on your applications to US universities.  Investigate what college prep program or programs the school has, and also what kind of career counseling is offered for high school students.

Extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities are also an important aspect of high school life. Not only that, US universities are very interested in students’ involvement in clubs and extracurricular activities, and they want to know about this when you apply to their college. You will find that many schools offer a wide range of sports activities, along with theater, music, and art programs.

Some schools may pride themselves with their excellent music program, for example, while others may have an excellent reputation for their athletics program. Think about what you are interested in learning and getting involved in. Also, think about sports or other activities you are currently involved in which you would like to continue when you are studying in the US.

Support for international students

Personally, I feel it is very important to look at what support schools offer for international students when you make your choice of school. Investigate whether they have English Language Learners’ support program to offer language support to new international students. Do they offer any kind of summer orientation program to help you prepare and adjust to a US high school?

What about the school community? Is it supportive to international students? Do they have an International Program Director whose job is to specifically offer support to international students? Does the school have a history of international students studying at their school? These are all important key factors to consider as you make your choice.

So, start researching all the possible options for your perfect US high school. Take notes under all the different key specifics, as listed in this article. Finally, be sure to make a shortlist of your top five or ten options and then make your decision! Good luck!

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About the author

Sally Forsyth is a High school English teacher and an educational coach. She has worked in national and internatonal schools in different countries and different school systems, She is also the founder of CoachMyFuture, a coaching organization focusing on coaching teachers and educators in the educational sector.

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