Hi Bridget, I think either Brad or Goli could answer this question from their experience studying in America. It doesn’t matter where you come from but where you want to go. Think big! It is like applying to universities in Australia – where your marks is important. You also have to consider about the tuition fees: if you think Australian fees are high, it is more in America (because you would be paying the international student fee).
The US system is pretty different than here. Universities in the US tend to be more specialized than in Australia. This means that just because it might be a big name university, doesn’t mean they’ll have the program you want or the atmosphere you’d enjoy. Universities are also a lot more expensive than Australia (on average between $40,000 – $60,000 per year), which makes it difficult unless you can get scholarships or loans.
Some Universities are harder to get into than others, with some schools only accepting 4-5% of applicants. Besides grades and your test results ( you have to take something called the SAT’s in the US) they judge you based on your extra-curricular activities – such as band, sports, clubs, volunteering, etc., so its important to have a wide range of activities and interests.
I feel like I should comment further on Adelaide’s “small city” status – it may be smaller than Sydney or Melbourne, but there are many excellent primary and secondary schools, and the three universities are all excellent. When you are applying for university, or a new job, it won’t matter to them which city you are from. You will be judged on the quality of your work and the environment in which it was performed, and, as Brad said, your broader activities. Coming from Adelaide, or any other small city, is no disadvantage at all. 🙂
Late to the conversation but Perth isn’t considered a large city and I did all of my study here even though I am originally from Sydney. For my chosen subject, early vertebrate palaeontology, Perth offered the best subjects and expertise and fossil sites. I’ve now collaborate with scientists all over the world and many jump at the chance to come here and see the museum collections in Perth and study in the labs at Curtin University. The size of the city doesn’t matter it is the quality of the research being done in the University you wish to attend and these aren’t necessarily in the biggest cities or even overseas.