I regularly get asked by students to help them choose the right college. While this may sound like a basic request it is really not as simple as it sounds. What is the right college for one student is probably a terrible choice for another student. So how do I answer this question?
Students have two basic options to try and find the right college for them. The first is the do it yourself approach. This method has some real attractiveness because the student should know best what they want from a college. While true in an ideal world, in the real world, students rarely understand all of the options available. As a result they often make the mistake of only looking at colleges they have heard about or their friends are considering.
To have a chance of being successful, the student really needs to consider who they are and what they really want from the college experience. Once they have determined what they want from a college they can then go to a general college search engine like College Navigator or the College Board site. These search sites will give some idea of colleges to consider.
In my experience these search engines are fairly good but are not able to address simple issues like what the culture of a particular campus is like. For that type of answer the student must do much more digging.
The application process for the do it yourself student also appears fairly straight forward, particularly if the student is looking at Common Application colleges. But, again, traps await the student. What do you write your essay about? Is one essay question better to answer than the others? What type of essay do admissions counselors like to see? Who is going to edit your essay?
Other issues can also arise related to the application. Do you simply completes the chart of activities provided or submit a supplemental resume? If you do a resume, what should it look like? Do you submit additional references or additional essays to explain who you are? Who should write your recommendations?
Can students handle the college admission process without help? Absolutely.
But the question isn’t really can you do it. The real question is can you do it and really find, and get accepted, to the best college for you.
Some students can, but many don’t really do a good job of handling the process. This is part of the reason that only 53% of students graduate from college in 6 years. Yes, you read that right. 6 not 4 years. The number graduating in 4 years is much less. And many students end up transferring because they failed to make a good choice when first applying to college.
So, while do it yourself is certainly an option, it is not the best option for many students. I will discuss your other option in the next posting.