Akhil Daswani, Co-Founder, OnCourse

After graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in Economics, Akhil worked at Goldman Sachs in Chicago in the Investment Management Division. After his time at Goldman Sachs, he decided to pursue his dream of revolutionizing the education space in India. As Co-Founder &COO, Akhil is responsible for the business development of OnCourse. Under his leadership, the company’s service offerings have expanded from admissions counselling to include test prep, life-skill programs for kids and adults as well as a recruitment service.


Having been in the college admissions field for over a decade, one of the most common issues we face while helping students build out a college list for the US is to look beyond the colleges ‘they’ve heard of’.

Yet, as advisors, we try to gauge what college type would be an ideal fit for students. To understand this better let’s break up the different types of colleges that do exist:

1. Small Liberal Arts Colleges: As the name suggests, these tend to be small schools, away from big cities, with incoming class sizes of 400-700 students. They tend to be less diverse and with a smaller international student population. Their need to increase diversity is one of the reasons that these types of colleges are also the most likely to provide need-based financial aid. These colleges, however, rarely provides engineering or business as an option.

Pros: Small class sizes, amazing interaction with professors, you will literally know everyone on campus before you graduate.

Cons: lesser-known colleges internationally, Lack of social life beyond the four walls of your campus.

Examples: Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, Carleton, Haverford, and Wesleyan.

2. National Universities: This encompasses privately funded institutions, close to or within a city, with programs across Engineers, Liberal Arts, Business among others. These typically include all the brand-name colleges we hear of from the academically rigorous Ivy League Schools to the coveted NYU and USC. They generally have incoming class sizes of 1000-2500 with a substantial international student cohort.

Pros: Well-regarded brand school, usually closer to families/relatives, will have a greater variety of courses.

Cons: Class sizes start large and taper only by your third or fourth year, being located in the city they tend to be the most expensive schools, they don’t provide many scholarships or financial aid

Examples: Harvard, Boston University, NYU, USC, and Duke.

3. Public Universities: These are state-funded institutions, extremely large, with incoming class sizes of 3000-15000. Like National Universities they offer a variety of programs across Liberal Arts, Business, Natural sciences, and Engineering. These colleges keep a large portion of their incoming class for in-state students leaving a small portion for those applying from out of state (international students fall within this bracket).

Pros: Popular Schools, Incredible research opportunities for science-focused students. Large International population and is relatively cheap compared to the other two types of schools. Usually have a bustling sporting culture with a typical ‘American college experience’.

Cons: Large class sizes through the four years make it difficult for those requiring personal attention. They tend to be away from cities, but given their size, they become small towns themselves.

Examples: UCLA, Michigan, University of Texas, Indiana, and Purdue.

Once students are able to understand the different types of colleges, it’s important that they identify which genre of college suits them best. Remember, a student who can get into Cornell (National University) could potentially get into Swarthmore (Liberal Arts College) and Berkeley (Public University)- and he or she would get an amazing education at each of these institutions but a totally different experience. As an international student, usually away from home for the first time, there are bound to be pangs of homesickness so it’s even more important to choose the right fit. Once we identify a student’s academic index based on their high school grades and standardized test scores this is the part where we engage families in constant research, after all, four years of your life is not a short period of time!

Content Disclaimer

Related Articles