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As an international student, you want to pick the U.S. college that fits you best. There are hundreds of factors to consider: academics, scholarships, location, and more. In addition, you should also ask some really tough questions about student life.

Here are three important topics to ask about:

  1. Smoking

Smoking is much less popular in the U.S. than it is in other countries.

“For many international students who smoke, the habit stems from cultural norms in a country in which smoking may carry less of a stigma.”
— Sonali Seth, “Ban on Smoking is Ineffective, Ignores International Students”

Smoke-free and tobacco-free colleges fine students for smoking cigarettes. They can even fine you for electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Some school policies (like the one at the University of Illinois–Urbana) even encourage fellow students to call and report anyone they see smoking.

  • What is the punishment if I’m caught smoking on campus?
  • Do students report other students?

If you’re a smoker, these are some good some tough questions to ask about your college’s policy.

  1. Alcohol

Many U.S. schools have strict no-alcohol policies on campus. That means that you cannot drink even if you’re over the age of 21.

At other U.S. colleges, underage students can routinely get away with drinking.

Regardless of whether or not you drink, alcohol policies can affect your college experience. You don’t want partying to get you kicked out, and you also don’t want drunk neighbors to keep you awake all night.

  • What happens if you are caught with alcohol? As an international student, could I lose my student visa?
  • Do students routinely break the rules?

Answers to these tough questions will help you to choose a school where you’ll be comfortable.

  1. Sexual assault and consent

Sexual assault is defined differently in every country. On top of that, the age of sexual consent is different in every U.S. state. In California, you must be 18. In Massachusetts, though, you only have to be 16.

This 5-minute video for international students explains sexual assault in the U.S. For example, sex with someone who is unconscious or very drunk is considered assault– even if the person agreed to it earlier.

As an incoming international student, you need to know the rules at your school.

  • What is the state’s age of consent?
  • What is the college grievance procedure?
  • Does the school keep statistics on sexual assault? If so, what are they?

Of course, you’ll want to be sure and choose a school where you can easily report abuse and get help if you’re a victim.


Maija Wallace is a freelance writer for college admissions blogs. Her website is located at

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