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Books to Read

General University Guides

General university guides provide information on available programs, admission criteria, application deadlines, and aspects of academic life. Most list either undergraduate or graduate programs, with graduate guides placing particular emphasis on fields of study and academic specializations. Some guides written especially for international students include information on international student enrollment, financial assistance, and housing.

Some helpful books to get you started include:

  • The Times Good University Guide 2015: Where To Go And What To Study – This guide includes detailed information intended to help students make decisions regarding where to study and what to study, as well as give a general idea of how much it might cost.
  • College Handbook 2015 – This guide is produced by CollegeBoard. It is the only guide that includes information on every accredited college in the US—2,200 four-year colleges and universities, and 1,700 two-year community colleges and technical schools.
  • The Insider's Guide to the Colleges, 2015 – This guide is unique in that it contains reports on colleges from students currently attending the school in question.
  • Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 – This guide includes information on the academic climates and the social and extracurricular scenes at the "best and most interesting" schools in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and Ireland.

All of these books are updated every year, so make sure your book was published recently!

Comparative Guides

Unlike general university guides that provide objective information on universities in the United States, other publications offer an informal "insider's" perspective on universities and university life; some include student perspectives.

Terms such as "the top ten" and "the most prestigious" are often used to distinguish a few universities from the rest. Many books, newspapers, and magazines publish these assessments or "rankings" of universities in the United States. With the vast array of universities to choose from, it may be tempting to rely on such rankings when selecting an institution. Beware! There is no official ranking of colleges and universities in the United States. The criteria on which published rankings are based vary from publication to publication. Some are based on the grades and standardized test scores of students who have gained admission; others on the opinion of professionals in the field. Some are based purely on the personal opinion or the author. The best college or university for you is the one that meets your own personal requirements and preferences.

University Catalogs

Every U.S. university publishes an annual prospectus containing information on academic programs and facilities. The prospectus includes information about degree requirements, costs, and student life. Many prospectuses are now published on the World Wide Web.

Financial Aid Sourcebooks

Students are always interested in investigating possible sources of financial aid information. We have noted in other sections that you should look closely at sources of funding from your own country. There are guides for funding for study in the United States, as well as companies which will search for funding for you for a fee. One well known funding guide is

  1. Funding for United States Study: A Guide for International Students and Professionals

Funding guides are organized in a variety of ways, sorting sources by region, field of study, level of study, and administering or sponsoring agency. These sources give contact information to a wide variety of funding sources, but the following generalizations apply:

  1. Most of the aid is available for graduate (master's and Ph.D.) study; little is available for undergraduate (bachelor's) study.
  2. Many of the offerings are narrowly targeted. An example explains this the best. The Central and Eastern European Fellowships administered by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Getty Grant Program are available for postdoctoral and professional training. The recipient must be a citizen of Eastern or Central Europe with preferences given to scholars in the early stages of their careers who have had little opportunity for travel and research abroad. As you can see, this narrows the field. That's good news if you match the criteria, because it decreases the competition, but it may not be easy to find a grant that matches your circumstances.
  3. Timelines for application vary. If you plan to use an award of this type to help you finance your studies in the United States, you will need to plan well in advance to secure the funding in time for admission to the university.

College-Search Publications

Publication Barron's Profiles of American Colleges 2015 (annual, July)
Description Gives a quick-facts listing (enrollment, application deadlines, student/faculty ratio) as well as a longer essay offering information on school history, student life (including percentages of international students and home countries), and resources (library facilities, computer lab, internet access, etc.)
Price $22.94 plus international shipping
Address Barron's Educational Series
250 Wireless Boulevard,
Hauppauge, NY 11788
Telephone 516-434-3311; 800-645-3476
Fax 516-434-3271
Publication College Handbook 2015: All New 52nd Edition (annual)
Description Detailed institutional profiles for 3,300 two- and four-year colleges and universities with admissions contacts. Indexed by state, city and size, and religious affiliation.
Price $25.72 plus international shipping
Address College Board Publications
45 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10023-6992
Telephone 212-713-8000
Fax 212-713-8255
Publication Directory of Graduate Programs(annual)
Description A four-volume set, divided by field area (Natural Sciences; Engineering and Business; Social Sciences and Education; and Arts, Humanities, and Other Fields). Provides program information, admissions requirements, institutional information, and program-specific resources, such as research facilities.
Price $20 per volume plus international shipping
Address Educational Testing Service
Publication Order Services
PO Box 6736
Princeton, NJ 08541-6736
Telephone 609-921-9000
Fax 609-734-5350
Publication International Student Handbook 2015 (annual)
Description For 3,000 undergraduate and graduate schools, provides information relevant to international students including TOEFL average and minimum scores, availability of English language programs, and level of advising services
Price $22.44 plus international shipping
Address College Board Publication
Telephone Not Available
Fax Not Available
Publication Peterson's Guide to Four-Year Colleges 2015 (annual, June)
Description Profiles give information on more than 2,000 accredited institutions, including school background, degrees offered, endowment, enrollment, student/faculty ratio, and an undergraduate student profile
Price $22.33 plus international shipping
Address Peterson's Guides
PO Box 2123
Princeton, NJ  08543-2123
Telephone 609-243-9111; 800-338-3282
Fax 609-243-9150

The Application Process

When looking at the application process for the USA, there are a number of books available that will provide guidance and assistance on how to work the application process:

  1. Here's How: Apply to American Colleges and Universities
  2. How to Survive Getting Into College: By Hundreds of Students Who Did

The College Application Essay

Your college application essay can make or break your acceptance chances, so you should do all you can to write a winning essay. You can get some help from these books:

  1. McGraw-Hill's Writing an Outstanding College Application Essay
  2. The College Application Essay, Revised Edition
  3. How to Write a Winning College Application Essay, Revised 4th Edition

Nearly every U.S. college and university has its own Web site. Such sites are often very comprehensive and informative. It is often easy to obtain further information and even application forms through university Web pages.

Information on the Internet is not filtered or controlled. When surfing the Internet using a search program, you are bound to find a lot of questionable information along with much that it is valuable. Promotional materials from unaccredited institutions, outdated or erroneous information, and advertising disguised as objective information are among the traps you may encounter.

Whether you use printed or electronic resources, be careful, and use your critical faculties! Make an effort to corroborate the information that most interests you, drawing on the following sources of help and advice.

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