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How to Find Your Best Fit College - Part 2

In the final part of this two part series, Ms. Lisa Jain, shares more factors for students to consider as they narrow down their university options before making a final decision.
BY Lisa Jain |   30-10-2015
In part 1 of the article, I talked about some of the criteria that influence, or should influence, the college shortlisting process for high school students. Here, I continue down this road, and share thoughts on a few more factors for students to consider while choosing best fit colleges.

Size Matters

Did you know that some colleges and universities in the U.S. could have a total of just 3,000 students, whereas others could have over 60,000? The size of a university can have a strong impact on your overall experience.

In very big universities, there may be a lot of energy and buzz, with lots of events happening all the time. But, in a small college, there is typically a much stronger sense of community. There’s a stronger chance you’ll be able to form deep relationships, not just with your own classmates, but with a much larger group of people. Students need to think about what sort of experience they’d prefer! Some will thrive in a large public college, whereas others will shine in a smaller private college. The decision is yours to make.

Undecided or Decided Majors

A significant percentage of students going to U.S. institutes go in for something called an ‘undecided major’, which means they don’t know what they’d like to study. Many decide only once they go to college.

The ‘Liberal Arts’ model of education, which is extremely popular in the U.S., allows students the flexibility to study from a broad range of subject areas, before they choose their college major.

One part of your college search will also get impacted by whether you’ve decided what you want to study. Those of you who are not fixated may prefer to apply to Liberal Arts colleges, or colleges with more flexibility. Others may have made up their mind about exactly what course they want to pursue and may decide to apply to a particular school within a college/university.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

For a vast majority of international students, the possibility of getting some financial aid is critical in their college decision process. For students who cannot afford to study in the U.S. without some form of aid, it is important to understand where the possibility of getting aid is highest. Many selective schools, if public/state, are not in a position to give aid to out of state students (this includes international students). On the other hand, a smaller private college, actively looking to recruit internationally, may decide to give a lot of financial aid as a way of attracting high quality students. Painstaking research on aid availability is critical to making the best application decisions.

International Population

A big reason for studying in the U.S., UK, Singapore, Canada, etc. is the global perspective that the experience provides to young students. You get the opportunity to meet students from around the world, learn about different cultures, habits, and values, and that is what makes an international education so valuable. Amidst all this, though, some students may long for some connection to home. Do you want to go to a college that is truly international, and has students from many different parts of the world? Or, would you prefer to go to an institution which has mostly domestic students? Do you want to go to a college where you’re bound to find some fellow Indian students? Or, would you prefer being in a place that is completely unfamiliar?

It is very important to think about all these factors, and many others that may be important to you, before you decide which college is the best fit for you. There is no right answer – you just need to think about your priorities, and take a decision based on them.


Lisa Jain is the Country Representative of The College Board in India. In her role, she works extensively with schools across India to help with the implementation of College Board programs. She also interacts directly with students and parents, educating them about how College Board’s programs and resources (such as SAT, AP, PSAT or Big Future) help in the college application and admission process.

Lisa was previously the Head of Marketing at an international school in Kolkata and has worked in the Equities division at UBS Investment Bank in London for two years.

 

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