So many choices, so little time: Tips to research your choices

How do you get from 4500 to 10 to 1? That answer for mosecret of lifest international students is the ultimate goal. Finding that one college, the best fit for you (what does that mean?) can be a long journey. How much time do you have or should you plan for to achieve this goal? In last week’s blog on Beginning the College Search, the recommendation of 12-18 months in advance of when you wish to begin your studies remains the most practical timeline to use.

On the issue of what the “best fit” is for you, ultimately the answer will be different for everyone. In the movie, City Slickers, a grizzled old cowboy asks, do know  what the secret of life is? The city slicker has no idea, so the cowboy tells him: “One thing, just one thing” and the rest doesn’t matter. What’s that one thing? “That’s what YOU got to find out.”

EducationUSA’s Define Your Priorities worksheet will allow you to identify those needs as it relates to searching for U.S. colleges. There are other helpful self-analysis tools out there like College Board’s Big Future site and ACT Profile. Best advice, think before you search. Beyond the obvious question of academic offerings, consider the following:

  1. What standardized test will you need to take to meet admissions requirements?
  2. What is the academic profile of students typically accepted to the colleges to which you might apply?
  3. How much money per year can you and your family commit to funding your studies?
  4. What size school makes sense for you?
  5. Do you want to be in a big city or a smaller town?
  6. What activities must the school and/or community have available outside of the classroom?
  7. As an international student, what kind of support is available to help you transition to college life?
  8. If your faith is important to you, what services are available near or on campus?
  9. What do you want to do after you finish your degree?
  10. As you look forward to post-graduation, what career placement advice does the college offer?

Along the way, you will benefit by listening to your family, peers, teachers, and counselors but ultimately it will be you who will be attending college at the school you choose. There are many top 10 lists to help inform your decision making process as well, but ideally you will invest the necessary time up front to research the choices that make sense for you, and that will ultimately meet most if not all of your needs.

There are plenty of things to avoid as well as you choose colleges and universities. One article that touches on many of the common errors students make highlighted the Top 15 Mistakes to Avoid in Choosing a College. In the end, if you spend the time up front to ensure that the schools you choose to apply to can meet your needs (or at least most of them), you will find yourself with perhaps more than one right college for you.

More next week on one of the first hurdles international students must overcome when choosing and applying to U.S. colleges: Standardized Tests.

Watch live presentations on test prep and more at CollegeWeekLive.