The more you know about your interests and your strengths, the more likely you’ll embark upon a path that is joyful and rewarding.
The subject areas introduced in high school are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Consider:
STEM: computational biology, nanotechnology, animal science, food science, viticulture and enology (the art of grape growing and winemaking)
BUSINESS: business analytics, information systems, fashion marketing or financial engineering
HUMANITIES/SOCIAL SCIENCE blends including bio-molecular archaeology, cognitive science, technical writing
FINE ARTS: scientific photography, costume technology, industrial design or even bakery science
These are just a few examples of fields where great innovation is occurring in a multi-disciplinary way – Be Inspired!
How do parents and students select their “best-fit” colleges and decide where to apply and if accepted, where to enroll?
Great choices begin with student inspired research!
STEPS TO INCREASING YOUR CHANCES OF ADMISSION
Establish Educational Goals:
A student’s initial exploration of the 4000 potential colleges shouldn’t be driven
by name recognition
but through a guided and purposeful exploration of college majors, followed by a review of the “social” fit.
Whether you love or hate science, want to change the world, enjoy drawing, solving problems, singing or surfing the web, a student’s passions and interests should ALWAYS direct the college research process.
ASK THESE QUESTIONS OF YOURSELF.
- What subjects do you really enjoy and do the concepts come naturally to you?
- What are your personal strengths?
- Are you a natural problem solver?
- Are you creative?
- Do you enjoy interactions with and helping others?
- Is having a broad based education important to you or would you rather prepare yourself for a very specific occupation (or be honest- income level)?
- What types of news stories on your twitter and Facebook feeds do you actually gravitate towards?
Answering these questions helps you to navigate through the curriculum requirements for majors currently on your radar and those you haven’t yet considered.
COLLEGE CURRICULUM RESEARCH: WHERE TO BEGIN?
Fortunately, this is not as difficult as it sounds. Think of any large university, i.e., University of Florida, Boston , Tulane or Drexel. Click on the college’s website and begin your exploration within the course catalog.
The course catalog provides very important pieces of information:
- An overall description of each major and the required curriculum (listing required courses to earn your degree)
- Actual course descriptions within each major (and minor) perhaps including a link to the actual syllabi for some of the courses.
What are your first impressions? Take notes- what is attractive to you and can you imagine yourself enrolling in and enjoying these courses?
As you review the curriculum you’ll notice that some majors have very rigid four-year requirements (i.e. Art, Music, Engineering). A major having several open slots of “electives” allows you to add a minor area of study and explore.
If you have many interests, avoid labeling yourself “undecided” when in fact you’re really a “flexible” and “multi-disciplinary” student ready to embrace a yet to be discovered opportunity.
There are colleges which encourage students to design their own major.
Both breadth and depth of study offer opportunities for your education and career.
Have you narrowed your choices to study not only in a “traditional” major but also a lessor know / previously unknown major area of study?!
GREAT! You’ve just increased your chances of admissions!
Let’s move on….
College Specific Research II: Once you have established educational goals, begin some preliminary research on which universities offer the strongest programs in your intended major(s). There are a variety of resources to find a college that may fit a student’s academic needs. Again, consider that “name recognition” is the reason behind why some top-tier colleges receive 40,000+ applications enabling them to boast of their single-digit admission rates and high “rankings”.
Your goal is to conduct research to help you make an informed college choice. Some of these resources include the following:
University Websites: ACADEMICS:
As noted, a college’s website provides invaluable information about potential majors and minors including the actual degree requirements and courses you will be able to complete.
Equally important, and this is particularly the case for aspiring physicians or graduate students, are opportunities to conduct research while enrolled as an undergraduate.
Within any given academic department, click on the links to learn about the faculty and their current research. INCREASE YOUR CHANCES of Admission by focusing your replies to college specific supplemental essay prompts on a specific interest area. For example, discuss Professor Frizzle’s recent work on genetics and relate her research to laboratory work you’ve enjoyed in your AP Biology class or a summer experience shadowing physicians or taking classes at the university level.
Are there formal research programs available for undergraduates? Explore clubs related to your major area of study (i.e. Engineers might consider Robocup!),
SUPPORT SERVICES: What is the extent of available academic support services for tutoring, career placement statistics, study abroad opportunities, or graduate application assistance (Is there a dedicated faculty managing your undergraduate path to medical school?).
Can you identify resources where you would turn for academic assistance or enrichment if needed?
As a freshman, what might life entail outside the classroom?
SOCIAL LIFE: College should be one of your best experiences, an opportunity to make lifelong friends and immerse yourself with like-minded peers. Does the “fit” feel right? It’s possible to research academic opportunities online although your research on “fit” isn’t complete without a campus visit.
Begin your research by reviewing the college newspaper and links to “campus life”. What are the available social activities both formal and informal? It’s important not only to have the academic resources for your intended area of study, but also to know that that there is more taking place than frat parties, football games or spending your evening playing video games.
Locate the list of student clubs on the college’s website (main navigation bar often creates a “campus life” link). If the list isn’t reflective of some of your current interests, that’s a potential red flag about how you’ll be spending your time outside of the classroom.
Imagine yourself a currently enrolled student and take note of the available activities taking place on any given weekend. Do they appeal to you?
SOCIAL MEDIA: Many schools utilize social media to provide you with a snapshot of the campus. While your most accurate way to assess campus culture is through a campus visit, social media can provide an initial impression of student life and the campus pulse.
However, avoid becoming a Facebook follower without ensuring your Facebook page provides a flattering image of yourself. See my recent blog posting: “Social Media- College Applications- Career Connections- Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter?” Once “following” a college on Facebook, admissions is now your “friend”, given access to your Facebook page as well.
YOUR CAREER-POST GRADUATION-GRAD SCHOOL – EMPLOYMENT!
LinkedIn’s University and Field of Study Explorer: This amazing resource is invaluable in locating schools that consistently produce well trained graduates. The tools provided are helpful for students and parents by focusing the research about colleges specifically to intended majors.
There is also an option to narrow your search to colleges that best prepare you for employment at specific companies.
IF YOU INSIST:
It’s not really about rankings- but if I haven’t yet convinced you, lists of College Rankings provide a starting point for gathering information about a college’s academics, professors and post-graduates success. But buyer beware – overall rankings often differ drastically from rankings by major departments.
Some of the more popular rankings include US News and World Report’s Best Colleges, Forbes American’s Top Colleges, Business Insider Best Colleges in America, Money Magazine Best Colleges, New York Times Most Economically Diverse Top Colleges, Washington Monthly College Rankings and PayScale College Salary and ROI Reports.
University ranking lists can vary considerably because of the different methodologies. For example, Forbes America’s Top Colleges may return different results than US News and World Report because of Forbes’ emphasis on post-graduate success and student loan debt.
INCREASE YOUR CHANCES of ADMISSION: INFORMED INTEREST
The more you learn about potential areas of study, career paths and specific colleges, the easier it becomes to make informed decisions about where to apply and enroll. By selecting universities that meet both your academic and social needs you’re more likely to be happy and successful in pursing educational goals. Do your research!
Speak with your guidance counselor, admissions officers, alumni, current and former students.
I invite you to leverage my extensive knowledge of university curricula and my experience advising thousands of high school, undergraduate and graduate students navigating curriculum choices to set and realize educational and career goals. Based on your academic strengths and personal interests, I welcome the opportunity to work together to create your personalized strategic educational plan.