In my college search, hundreds of dollars were spent on gas traveling to faraway schools. Countless Saturdays were given up in pursuit of finding my home for the next four years. I spent hours agonizing over my applications for a long list of universities. After a year and a half, I have made my fair share of mistakes, and wish no one else to do the same.
I enlisted the help of a guidance counselor (who wishes to remain anonymous) to share her top 5 pieces of advice for any student, which I will evaluate based off my own experiences as a future journalism major who has conquered the American admissions scene and chosen an institution to enroll in next fall.
The College Admissions process is easier if students create a plan (Image Source: Haiku Deck)
5. Stay Focused on Academics
This guidance counselor encourages students to be realistic about the level of academics they should pursue, and challenge themselves as much as they can without becoming overwhelmed. When selecting courses for junior and senior year of high school, they should keep in mind that “challenging” does not always mean Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or Honours classes.
This advice holds true for the students with “unconventional” interests. They should stay focused in all their classes, but push past their personal limits in courses that most align with their future major, as these teachers may come in handy for recommendation letters. Students should also keep their eyes peeled for opportunities to better themselves outside of the classroom with internships, summer programs, or community service. The sky is the limit; the goal for students should be improvement and experimentation to make sure they love their future career.
The International Baccalaureate, an advanced scholastic program offered around the globe. (Image Source: http://www.ibo.org)
4. Do Your Research
All students, no matter their major, should do research during their junior year to make the college search easier both emotionally and financially. Starting early allows more time to experiment with different paths in the beginning of the process, and more time during application season to pick between schools to apply and enroll in.
Students should do research on their own terms. A good place to start is a site like College Confidential, which offers threads for specific majors and even specific schools from students who have already enrolled within a program. Students should take the potential biases of these posters into account, though many posts offer genuine advice because they recognize that many students may be the only one pursuing their particular major in their school or community. A different alternative is to research and/or contact successful people within a field and see where they acquired their credentials, or how they broke into the industry.
3. Some Factors to Rate Schools
An acronym to consider when researching and creating criteria to judge your school is SLAM: Size, Location, Academics and Money.
Size- Is the college a state university or private university? Applicants often gravitate towards smaller private schools without looking into programs at state universities because they fear the latter is ‘too big’. Be sure to check every avenue of education before making a decision on a program.
Location- Is the institution located in a city, town, or rural area? Are there opportunities to work or complete internships in the surrounding area? How far is this college from your home? Are you comfortable leaving your state or province to study? How will you get home? One should evaluate their answers to these questions carefully, and get their parents’ input as well.
Students should take the school’s location into consideration before applying. (Image Source: Pexels)
Academics- How long has your program been educating people in your field? Is your program accredited? A program is accredited because it meets or exceeds minimum standards of quality for a specific field. It is evaluated by a peer review board of professors from accredited colleges or successful people in the business. Accreditation and the timespan since the program’s inception boosts reputation, and sometimes, future job prospects.
Money- How much is the total cost of attendance? Is there scholarships offered? You should look at universities within a range they can afford, and be prepared for extra essays, videos, recommendations, or talent auditions that may be needed for applications and scholarships. You should also form a plan about your future before their final year of high school.
2. Have a In-Depth Conversation with your Parents
Applying to and enrolling in a college can be done alone, if a student is extremely diligent, but it can be easier to have your parents on board with your decisions during the application season. Students should have a conversation with their parents outlining their dreams and potential schools.
It is important for students to communicate with their parents, as this may alleviate potential biases towards a specific school or major. If your parents do not approve of your major choice, initiating this conversation, and providing sufficient research and reasoning shows your seriousness about the next stage of your life. This may win them over, or at least convince them to go on a college visit. If you start early, then you have more time to with your parents to find a compromise.
Remember to keep your head up during the woes of application season! (Image Source: Sweety Text Messages)
1. Keep Your Head Up
There will be people along this journey that say your choice in school or major is ‘crazy’ or ‘impractical’. During the academic preview sessions of my college visits, I confidently answered ‘journalism’ whenever I was asked about my major. A couple of professors tried to convince me that the industry was dead, while other students chuckled in my direction. My parents and I would drive hours only to be told the university did not offer journalism, and that I should consider something else. Sometimes colleges that look beautiful online fall drastically short on paper. The only good that comes of these situations is process of elimination to find your dream school.
The college search process is often publicized as a grueling event that drains families physically and emotionally. Students fret over everything from the location of the campus to the number of clubs the school has, which shows how much applicants care about their future. This attitude is mature, though can quickly become unhealthy. College admissions does not have to be this way, if a student keeps a level head and trusts their instincts and desires. Above all, university is what you make of it, from the day you research the school until you have hold your diploma. Take a risk, and you will enjoy the result for years to come.