Every year thousands of students from all over the world apply to various colleges in the US and all of them want to get into the very best. There are lists that rank colleges but you should do your own research when choosing what college is the right fit for you. And, it’s not just the reputation, courses offered or the high-profile faculty that makes a good college. You also need to know about life beyond the classrooms.
In order to prepare yourself better, you need to keep these criteria to keep in mind while researching colleges:
Courses, majors offered
You must look at the different kinds of majors the college offers. If the way in which your intended major is taught at this college interests you, you must find out about the typical class size and how it impacts learning in the classroom. Get to know about core requirements or curriculum, the combination of majors and minors and opportunities to gain practical exposure by means of study abroad or student exchange programmes.
You can also take a look at www.coursera.org and view courses which have captured your fancy to get an inkling of the kind of learning you can look forward to at that college.
Talk to an alumnus
Contacting an alumnus will allow you to look at what they have achieved with the skill set and knowledge acquired from the college. Alumni give you a glimpse into the ethos a college fosters and allows you to judge which college resonates more with you and your career goals.
Getting in touch with alumnus and asking for information about their experience at the college is a great way to collect information and find your perfect fit.
More often than not, the faculty of a college is distinguished and knowledgeable, so glancing through credentials will get you nowhere. You need to go on student blogs and research about student-teacher interaction at the college, find out about the research projects the professors are pursuing and see what resonates with you.
Research opportunities, internships
There are a multitude of colleges that offer research opportunities to undergraduates and you could be one of the lucky few to get published before you can legally drink. For example, UC Berkeley is one of the colleges known for its unending research opportunities.
Internships could be a great way to get a well rounded exposure to the hard life that is going to follow after college. Work experience will also help you decide if your chosen field is right for you.
It’s about geography as well. Under this heading you can classify location (more important than you’d initially think), proximity to a city/town, and weather conditions.
For example, if you are the kind of person who wants sandy beaches and sunshine the year round and a cocoon of pulsating city life, UCLA would be the ideal college for you. On the other hand, if you are a fan of snow, mountaineering and a contained campus far away from the bustling city, look at Middlebury College or even Vassar College.
Look up activities and extracurriculars offered by the clubs and societies of the college. Don’t be afraid to explore as you will have complete freedom to choose the activities that interest you and unlimited opportunity for participation.
Diversity and size of student body are important factors as well. For an easy way to get statistics about a college look up ‘Class Profile’. It is important information laid out in a nutshell for you.
(The author is the co founder of Collegify, a college consulting firm to prepare students for higher education abroad. The views expressed are his personal).