Probably the hardest decisions we make in life are the ones where we don’t have all the information we need, or, worse yet, don’t know which questions to ask. Researching possible college choices in the U.S., if you don’t have a significant knowledge base of the higher education system in the States, can be like making a decision in a vacuum. Deciding on what schools to apply to simply because you have heard of them is not exactly an informed decision and can actually be quite counterproductive. What really matters to you as you choose a U.S. college? Is it reputation, academic majors, location, size, or other factors?
Before you begin picking colleges based solely on rankings (none of which are official in the United States), take a broad look at what your options are. When considering U.S. colleges, the questions you might need to ask might not be obvious to you. What happens outside the classroom on campus can often be as important to your development and future prospects as what you learn in the classroom.
Many colleges will talk about how they can be the “right fit” for you. What that means for you will be very different that what your classmates might need. As you conduct your search, think first about your needs.
To help you sort through this very complex selection process, the U.S. Department of State’s EducationUSA advising network has compiled a very through worksheet to help you “Define Your Priorities.” This network, EducationUSA, is the official source on U.S. higher education for students outside the U.S. After taking stock in what you identify through this self-assessment tool, you will have the necessary starting point to begin using one or more of the many college search engines that are available to help you. More on that topic in next week’s post.
Knowing what is important to you not only in what you want to study but what you want to be after college can give your college search more direction and lead to a more satisfying admissions process to U.S. universities. Take the time to plan effectively at the beginning and the end results will be much more rewarding. Good luck on your journey!