Narrowing the College Choice
Monday, August 02, 2010
Few rising seniors – those students about to enter their senior year of high school – have started applying to college, but now is a good time for them to come up with a list of schools they’re going to consider.
Over the last few years, the trend has been that students are applying to more schools than ever. Unlike their parents, who typically applied to 2-4 colleges because they had to sit down and write out (or perhaps type) an application, today’s students often apply to at least five schools. I’ve actually heard of one student applying to 31 schools.
A more reasonable number would be 4-8.
But how do you narrow the field? Butler University Vice President for Enrollment Management Tom Weede offers four suggestions.
1. Honesty. The more honest you can be with yourself right now, the easier the process will be. Eighty-five percent of students go to school within two hours of home. It’s hard to leave your family, your friends, your job – things you’re familiar with. You may be tempted to look far afield, but ask yourself: Will you be happy far from home? If you would, it certainly creates more possibilities. But if you think you’ll be happier going to school close to home, then apply to nearby schools.
2. City, suburban or country school? This is where you’re going to be living for four years. You need to decide what’s going to suit you best. There are fewer distractions in the country; there may be more educational opportunities in a city. What do you prefer?
3. What is your academic profile? Look at the list of places you’re considering and ask them what their academic profile is. Specifically, call the Admission Office and ask: What’s the grade point average and SAT and ACT scores for the middle 50 percent of this year’s freshman class? That will help you figure out whether you’d be a good fit. Academically, it’s better to be in the middle of the entering class than to be at either extreme. If you’re the smartest person in the class, it’s possible you’ll get more scholarship money because you might be valuable to that university. But you might not be as challenged as you need to be to further your education. By the same token, you don’t want to be the last person in the class. You might get in, but will you be able to keep up with the rest of your classmates?
4. Extracurricular activities. Choose a school where you’ll be able to be involved. Whether it’s athletics, theater, music or something else, being active helps students focus.
Now, what shouldn’t you consider?
1. Cost. Look at this as a holistic process that includes getting admitted to the school and financial aid. We can’t tell you what your financial aid will be until you’ve completed the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and that can’t be done until your tax return is finished. So look for the right fit, regardless of cost, but don’t think of any school as a possibility until after you hear about admission and financial aid. That way, you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment.
2. Where your boyfriend or girlfriend is looking. While you might be in love right now, statistically, the chances of you continuing on with that person is low. That’s why high school sweethearts who marry are such a special thing. It doesn’t happen often.
3. A specific major. Yes, it’s perfectly acceptable – even expected – that you’ll enter college with a declared major. But a majority of students end up changing their major. So look at schools not for one specific major but for their overall offerings. How can you know now what you want to do for the rest of your life? You can’t.
Your ultimate goal should be to find a college that can help you prepare for your future. That doesn’t just mean your career; it means your overall education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American more than 10 jobs from ages 18 to 42. And the job you end up with may not even exist at the moment. You have to get an education that will prepare you for learning for your entire life.
Tom Weede joined Butler University in May 2007 as vice president for enrollment management. Previously, he served as the chief admission officer at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., and Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C. He also worked at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wis. To schedule an interview with Tom Weede, contact Marc Allan, (317) 940-9822 or firstname.lastname@example.org
To find other Butler University experts, visit http://www.butler.edu/experts/.
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