- Fulbright Awards
- Study in the USA
- News & Events
- Resources For
- Undergraduate Study FAQs151 »
- Postgraduate Study FAQs152 »
- Work and Volunteer FAQs317
- Further Assistance510
Selecting a university that is a good fit for you can be a challenging task, but also an exciting one! With over 4,500 universities offering undergraduate degrees, you may find the process of narrowing your search to the 6-8 to which you will apply a bit overwhelming at first. We provide a three step process and factors to consider when choosing a US university. We also have a list of resources that can help you when researching universities in the US.
There is no centralised, authoritative ranking system of American universities. Unofficial rankings, such as US News and World Report, Princeton Review and the QS - World University Rankings will give you a general idea of the academic reputation and relative prestige of a university. However, it is important to realise that a top 20, or even top 100, list of universities covers only a small percentage of the universities available and that they may not be ranked depending on factors that are important to undergraduate students (i.e. - class size, teaching quality, student advising, faculty access and opportunities for research, internships, campus activities, etc.) In addition, we provide a three step process and factors to consider when choosing a US university. We also have a list of resources that can help you when researching universities in the US.
There is no limit to the number of universities you can apply to in the USA. We recommend, however, that you narrow your search down to a well-rounded list of six to eight universities. In general, we suggest that students try to apply to one or two ‘reach universities’ (highly competitive universities with low admittance rates), two to three ‘good match universities' (universities that are still competitive but at which you stand a good chance of being admitted) and one or two ‘safety universities’ (universities to which you will more than likely be admitted, even if they are not your top choice).
We also recommend that you apply to a variety of universities and that you shouldn’t choose universities just because you have heard of them. There are many factors to consider when choosing a university, so be sure to do your research to find the best fit for you!
The Ivy League is a sports conference composed of private universities in the northeastern part of the USA. It is important to understand that the Ivy League is not necessarily synonymous with Russell Group universities in the UK. Read more about the types of American universities including the Ivy League and the “Public Ivies” but also other prestigious institutions such as the Association of American Universities (AAU) and private liberal arts colleges.
Accreditation of American universities is carried out by private, non-governmental organisations on a regional basis, rather than a centralised government body.
If you need to simply verify that an American university is accredited, you may wish to search the following databases:
The US Department of Education's Database of Accredited Programs and Institutions
There is no exact equivalent to the Russell Group universities in the US. The Ivy League is a sports conference composed of private universities in the northeastern part of the USA. It is important to understand that the Ivy League is not necessarily synonymous with Russell Group universities in the UK. Read more about the types of American universities including the Ivy League and the “Public Ivies” but also other prestigious institutions such as the Association of American Universities (AAU) and private liberal arts colleges.
“College” and “university” are synonymous in the USA. Both words are used when speaking of an institution of higher education. “Community college”, however, refers to a two-year degree granting institution.
Note: the abbreviation ‘uni’ is not used in the states. For more information, please visit our Academic Terminology Differences webpage.
There are many organisations and individuals in the UK who can help you prepare applications to American universities. Many of our partner organisations offer one-on-one support to students who are searching for and applying to universities in the USA. You can also search for educational consultants online.
After reviewing the information provided on our website, feel free to contact our advising team. You can reach us via phone 0845 894 9524 (Tuesdays 1:30 - 5 pm and Thursdays 1:30 - 5 pm); via email – firstname.lastname@example.org; or in-person at events.
If you need additional assistance as you apply for US study beyond what our staff are able to provide, you may wish to consider contacting one of the organisations on our Resources page. These test tutors and educational consultants offer a higher level of personalised, additional support and services to help you prepare for admission tests and complete a competitive application.