5 Tips for Finding Your Dream University

Recommendations by American student, Hannah Doyle


Hannah Doyle is an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway. Back in the United States, Hannah is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle.

With over 4,000 institutions, deciding which U.S. university to attend is difficult in general. If you are an international student, the decision can seem even more challenging if you are unable to visit campuses in-person. Have no fear though – here are 5 tips to help you find your dream school!

1. Think beyond California and New York

Don’t get me wrong – California and New York are great! That said, there are 48 other unique states with impressive universities. Take a leap of faith and go somewhere wildly different from Norway. Be adventurous – experience Southern culture in Louisiana or live in the deserts of Arizona.

Image of Seattle, Washington, home of the University of Washington.
I chose Seattle, the polar opposite of my hometown.

2. Know your needs

Consider the specifics of what you want in a university. Public or private? Big city or small town? Religious affiliation? Majors? Reputation? Research opportunities? Costs? Don’t worry about finding a 100% match, but be informed.

Image of Suzzalo Reading Room at the University of Washington in Seattle.
A school with a pretty library was a must for me.

3. Examine the extracurriculars

So much learning takes place outside the classroom. U.S. universities offer huge amounts of clubs, societies, and activities outside of class – my university has over 900 student organizations! Read through the university’s list of extracurriculars and see how they align with your interests and hobbies.

Image of University of Washington's Norwegian Club marching in the Norwegian Constitution Day Parade in Seattle.
You can even join a Norwegian club! Photo by Joe Mabel.

4. Keep your options open

Sort your universities into three categories based upon their acceptance rate and your qualifications: reach (more difficult to get admitted), target (on par with your qualifications), and safety (easier to get admitted). If possible, apply to several schools across the three categories to give yourself more options.

Image of U.S. university logos
So many schools!

5. Check out the meme page 

Okay, I know it sounds weird, but hear me out. If you can’t visit the college in-person, checking out its meme groups (like UW Teens for Boundless Memes) on Facebook can offer a little insight into the student life vibe. They are purely student-run and definitely not endorsed by the university, so don’t make the memes your deciding factor.

Perfect entertainment for procrastinating your studies

But most importantly – wherever you end up – keep an open mind. Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in American culture and actively engage in the campus community. No matter which university you attend, it will be a rewarding experience!