University Admissions Blog
ANNOUNCEMENTS & ADVICE
Fall in love with your university! (And other things you must do before applying to college in the United States.)
Finding the right school “fit” is extremely important. Not only will the university be your home for two or more years, but the classes you take and the people you meet will greatly impact your future. I mention this because so many of my clients rely almost exclusively on school/program ranking and fail to consider other important factors in their decision, such as research/internship opportunities, access to professors, networking (faculty and friends), and potential for happiness. If you are not happy with the school you’ve chosen, you statistically have a much lower chance of being a successful student.
I’ll be honest, finding the right school for an individual is the most time consuming aspect of the application process. Doing it correctly means continually exploring yourself (needs, desires, goals, etc.) as well as your educational opportunities. Your list of match, reach, and safety schools will change, and that’s great.
If you’re looking for a quick place to start, check out my free University Personality Quiz.
Finding the right school is also confusing, especially as an international applicant who is unfamiliar with U.S institutions and expectations. Because of this, an independent counselor can be beneficial to you - in both helping you find the right school as well as navigate the application process. That said, here are two important activities I guide my clients through to help them find the perfect school:
1. Self and family assessment. Where you attend school is usually a family affair, and you need to consider the perspectives of the involved parties. I have all of my clients go through a 4-step process. Here is a screenshot of the final step, which will show you the criteria you need to consider when choosing a school. Rate all of these characteristics on a 0-5 scale.
When you are done, you should have a good idea of what’s important to you in a school. You will then be in a good position to start researching your options. There are lots of ways to do this, but I recommend starting with the school websites. Keep in mind that these schools are trying to sell their institutions to you, so they’ll be very compelling, but they also offer a wealth of information regarding their programming, expectations, campus life, etc. From there you should read student reviews (see niche.com) and contact current/recent alumni to get an unsolicited perspective. I talk more about how to do this as part of my “Choosing a University” workshop. Please contact me if you’re interested.
2. As you research your schools, put the information in a spreadsheet for easy viewing at a later date. Here’s an image of the one I use with clients:
Make sure to include ALL relevant data, such as what your family thinks of each school, what current students say, application requirements, due dates, etc. Once you have 20 or so schools in your spreadsheet, you should start narrowing it down until you have roughly 3 match, 2 safety, and 3 reach schools. This means conducting even more (thorough) research.
Most students apply to less than 10 schools, but if you’re comfortable paying the application fees to more institutions, feel free to apply to more. Largely because of the ease of applying through the Common App (for undergraduate admissions), a trend called “shotgunning” has been gaining popularity. The rationale is that by applying to a large number of schools, you have a better chance of getting into one - especially a reach school. In my opinion, shotgunning is a fine strategy so long as you don’t exclude your safeties.
While the steps I have shared are only a portion of the school selection process, they are a great place to start.
As I mentioned, finding the right school is a time consuming and confusing process; however, it’s imperative that you invest in yourself and spend the requisite time and effort. You deserve to have a university experience that enjoy and sets you up for success.
If you are interested in working with an American college counselor, be sure to reach out to me. While I offer complete one-on-one packages and DIY courses, I also help struggling applicants with any stage of the application process. My expertise will save you an immense amount of time narrowing down your options so that they fit you and your goals, and I will help you align your application to the expectations of your desired schools. Being former U.S. college faculty, I have a strong handle on what schools look for in applicants.