It’s easy in the whirlwind that is the college application season for students to get caught up in one thing: What’s the highest-ranked school they can get into? The prevalence of rankings systems and methodologies has made it so that students pay much more attention to where a college places on a list, rather than where it places in their best interest. As counselors, it’s important that we guide students throughout the process, and bring up other important aspects that they should consider as they make their final school selections.
There is certainly more to a college campus than merely the school grounds. The city where a college or university is located has a huge impact on the overall atmosphere of the school, as well as the resources available to it. It is also important for students to consider where they would be happiest living for four years: Do they prefer a small town? Can they handle a big city?
Although this aspect seems to be relegated to parents, students should consider it as well, particularly since they will likely be the ones paying back the student loans after graduation. What level of debt are they comfortable incurring? Students should also be encouraged to talk to their parents about budgeting and finances, in order to start off college on the right monetary foot.
What does the student want to major in? Is the college they’ve decided on known for a program in that field? Often, students assume that colleges will have the program they are interested in, only to arrive and find they have to come up with a new game plan due to limitations in their university’s academic offerings.
Future career aspirations
In addition to providing the academic training they’re looking for, students should research the school’s job placement assistance in that field. While it's likely they will change their career path, they should at least ensure that their initial employment goals can be met through the college.
Extracurricular opportunities and interests
For students with very specific extracurricular requirements (radio station, philanthropic pursuits), researching their availability (or students’ ability to create new student groups/programs), is a must.
Work and internship opportunities
Having employment — whether paid or unpaid — while in school, is essential for many students. Encourage students to look into what kind of employment opportunities and internship programs are offered by the college they are considering.
Personal skills sets and resources
Does the school have the resources to encourage the student, and assist with what the student requires?
Ultimately, the most important attribute a college should have is the ability to make the student happy and fulfilled. By taking the time to go beyond the numbers, students can ensure that they make the best choice — and one that they will be proud to look back on even years after they receive their diploma.
Anne Chaconas is the Director of Admissions Counseling for PowerScore Test Preparation