Deciding which college to attend can be just as important as deciding what to major in. With thousands of schools to choose from, the choice can seem overwhelming. This article is for those international students who are still unsure about where to study economics, and will prove to be a good starting point in the decision process.
The first thing for international students to do is make a list of top economics colleges. Once this is done, you should categorize the schools into three groups: One for dream schools, one for backup schools, and a third for last resort schools (because you never know, and it is always better to be prepared).
To decide which school belongs in which group, you need gather all of the information you can about each university on the list. Go to the college's website, see what non-affiliated sites say about the school and, if you have the chance, try visiting the campus. This last suggestion will give you a real feel for the university and let you see what the weather and surrounding city are like. While you are there you can also speak with students about the school's economics program. This will allow you to see what things students like and do not like, and you can ask about the teachers. Having first hand accounts can give an entirely new perspective of a school, one which may be completely different than what you will find on a brochure. It might turn out that students in a lesser known school love their teachers and the surrounding area, while students in top economics colleges might give lukewarm accounts of the same things.
Another thing consider when deciding where to study economics is the cost of living. International students should look at the price of housing, food, and, of course, the price of tuition for each school. One school may be much cheaper than another, but have higher housing prices. These factors can be very important for international students on a budget, and should not be taken for granted.
You may also want to take into account what (if anything) each school is known for. For example, the University of Chicago has an entire school of thought named after it (known as the Chicago school of economics). If you are considering studying at the University of Chicago you may want to consider if the neoclassical thought that they are known for is in line with your own interests and beliefs. This is not as important for aspiring undergraduates, who may not yet know what they are interested in, but it can be very important for deciding which college to attend as a graduate student.
Lastly, universities sometimes offer different types of economics degrees which you will have to choose between. Some schools offer a Bachelors of Arts (B.A.) and a Bachelors of Science (B.S.) degree in economics, and others even offer a choice between traditional economics and applied economics degrees. While no economics degree is "better" than any other per se, some degrees are more suited to different future plans. If you are unsure about pursuing a B.A. or a B.S. degree should consider post-graduation plans. International students who are interested in pursuing a career immediately after completing their bachelor's degree may want to look for a school which offers an applied economics degree. Those students who have good math skills and want to attend graduate school, on the other hand, may find that a Bachelors of Science degree in traditional economics will work more in their favor.
Many schools, however, do not offer a degree choice for undergraduates. Some schools only offer a Bachelors of Arts degree and others only offer a Bachelors of Science degree. If you happen to find a school you really like but find out that the degree type you want is not offered, do not worry too much. The biggest difference between the various types of economics degrees is how much math is required, and you can always take extra math classes as electives if you need them. As a general rule, you should go with the better school rather than the more appropriate economics degree type.
Remember, not everyone will be able to attend the top economics colleges. If you don't make your first choice, don't worry. There are many great schools that are not considered Ivy League. The thing that is most important when deciding where to study economics is that the school is a good fit for you. You want to be comfortable with the location, the cost, and the people. All of these things will vary from person to person, so you will ultimately have to make many of these choices yourself.