If you have decided that going to college or university is what you want to do after high school, then this article is for you — making a choice about which college or university to attend is a difficult one. There are so many options to choose from! This article will show you the five steps to help you narrow down your choices to a manageable number that you can apply to. It does not matter if you apply to institutions in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, or any other part of the world; Our college counseling tips will help you.
Step 1: Self-reflection
It never fails to shock me how many college counselors start off a discussion about building a college list by jumping into how to research colleges. For me, they are missing what I consider to be the most important part of the process, thinking about who you are. Making a choice about which college to attend is a big decision and a considerable investment in time and money. Spending time thinking about what is important to make your college experience successful will always be time well spent.
Points to consider include:
What type of learner are you? Thinking back on your schooling experience, what helped you do your best work? Perhaps you are the type who likes to work in small groups or classes, or maybe you enjoy the buzz of having lots of people around. Some people find that they like to talk about aspects of what they are learning with their teachers, thereby gaining a wider perspective on their learning. Another point to consider is how you respond to competition. Do you enjoy a competitive environment where everybody is trying to do better work than everybody else, or are you more collaborative and enjoy sharing ideas with others as a way of building understanding?
What do you need around you to flourish? By this, I mean what do you need to feel comfortable during your time living at college. Are you the sort of person who likes to settle in one location, build friendships with like-minded people, sharing discussions across many topics? Is it important for you to have access to the distractions of a big city, or perhaps you want to be out in the country where you can make the most of the opportunities for hiking, kayaking, skiing, or whatever takes your fancy?
Step 2: Dream your future
You are hopefully well aware that not all colleges are the same, so in step two, I want you to think about what you want to take advantage of during your time at college; these things might be linked to academic growth or personal development.
Common points that you might want to consider would include things like access to labs and specialist equipment and opportunities to take internships or work with professors. Many students are attracted by the idea of spending some time learning in a different country or perhaps on an overseas field research trip.
Step 3: Talk to your family
While you will be the one attending university, the support and encouragement of your family should be an important consideration. While you will have your own dreams about going to college, it is likely that your family will have dreams for you as well. Hopefully, those dreams will match yours, but that is not always the case. There have been occasions where the parents of students we have worked with have wanted their son or daughter to attend a particular college or sometimes go to a college near family members who can offer support.
Another important area to have an early conversation with your family about is cost. Irrespective of where you go to college, it is an expensive proposition, so talk to your family about what the family can afford. Sometimes we see students who have the potential to be accepted by one of the highly selective private colleges in the United States but are not able to afford the high costs that can be required. In those circumstances, it might be better to focus on slightly less selective colleges that will appreciate what you bring to the college community and provide you with scholarship money to make it more affordable. This can be a particularly beneficial strategy if you intend to attend one of the professional programs like medicine or law.
One of the most common areas where we see differences between parents and students is what to study. Some parents will put a value in studying a particular major, typically in the STEM areas, but you, the student, might want to pursue their interest in the arts or humanities. Understanding these tensions can help you when considering your choice of college; for example, you could choose to look at colleges that will provide the opportunity to follow a double major, one with more of a STEM focus and a second in the areas you want to follow.
Step 4: Research, research, research!
This is where the previous three points start to come together, taking into consideration what sort of learner you are, what you need around you, the things you want to take advantage of during your college years, and the discussions with your family you need to narrow down your list of colleges to just a few. Just how many colleges you are going to apply to will depend on which countries you are going to apply to, together with any limitations that your school may have. If you are going to apply to the US, there is no real limitation on the number that you are allowed to apply to, but due to the amount of work required to support the applications, many schools will only allow students to apply to around a dozen. Make sure you understand the policy of your school before you start to research colleges.
The internet makes narrowing down your college list much easier than 20 years ago. Now you can find out which colleges offer the majors or subjects you want to study or narrow down to colleges in a specific area in just a few minutes.
Many families like to use the many ranking tables to help make decisions about the colleges they want to apply to. Such tables can provide a valuable added perspective into colleges but try to resist going for a particular institution just because it is higher in the rankings. Ultimately you need to find the environment that will enable you to do your best work.
Whatever the considerations you are taking into account when researching colleges, make sure you are looking into them in depth. The course they offer should be the most important consideration, but what types of specialisms do they offer, are there links with the industry you aspire to go into? In addition to the course, look at the information about what the student experience is like outside of the lecture hall, are they good social opportunities, is there the opportunity to play your favorite sport? You should be able to find the answers to these questions and many others through the university’s official website. If your specific question is not there, then reach out to the admissions team.
Step 5: Own the process
Choosing the colleges you apply to should be a very personal decision; by all means, listen to what counselors or friends have to say, but make the decision your own.
Working with study abroad consultants, overseas education consultants, or, as more commonly known, college counselors, can help you plan ahead and make those high school years count. Ivy Central offers exceptional focus to help you prepare for college admissions throughout the high-schooling years. Start today!