Finding the right colleges to apply to is an overwhelming process. This is one of the most critical life decisions that you are going to make. There are a wide range of options, and lots of factors to be considered, and an even wider range of online and community sources that might give you conflicting advice.
How do you build a path that is best for you? How can you structure your efforts and process the large amount of information to optimize the college search process? Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Create a list of factors that are most important to you: This is the first and most important step that needs to be completed before you even start your search. Conduct an internal evaluation and identify your likes, dislikes and preferences. Are willing to choose from a selected set of cities or countries? Are you looking forward to join a school with strong arts curriculum or a strong engineering programme? Do you prefer a city university or a campus setting? Do you have the grades and profile to get to this school? Think through all the factors and prioritise them based on your preferences.
- Speak to your family: Seriously consider their views into where they think you will excel. Have a clear discussion regarding the financial implications of applying and enrolling in a college abroad. However, remember that although they know you best, they cannot solely determine what is best for you. You have to analyse yourself and narrow down on your options honestly and independently.
- Set aside time each week: Fix a particular time in your calendar, with an agenda of specific tasks that you need to complete each time. If you don’t have a structured work plan, the chances for delaying your tasks gets a lot higher. Specific outputs could be: online research, identifying and prioritising factors to narrow your search, conversations with mentors or current students, etc.
- Scour college websites: To learn more about the school’s curriculum, pedagogy and academic rigor, you must research department webpages, core curriculum, and the university news pages to discover timely advancements in faculty and student research and achievements. To imbibe a campus vibe, take a virtual tour, understand the university’s mission statement, read the campus newspaper, and look into career and academic advising support for international students.
- Speak to current students, alumni and professors: How much faculty support would you get on expanding your pet renewable energy project? What career opportunities do you have as an international student abroad or upon returning to India? How active is the cappella group on campus? You will get the best insights from the college’s student body and faculty.
- Attend college fairs in your city, or better yet, visit a set of shortlisted colleges: Ideally, the best way to get insight into a college is to visit its campus, engage directly with not just the admission committee, but also students and faculty. If you are time or resource-constrained, attend information sessions and college fairs in your city to get an understanding of the college directly from its admissions team.
Start early, keep track of deadlines and remember to keep an open mind through this process. You might be surprised by the schools you end up choosing. The curation of colleges, like asking the right question, is half the battle won.