Let’s start by breaking one misconception. A college list cannot be made in a day. It takes time, research, and most importantly conversation. Unlike how you choose a burger off a menu item at a restaurant, choosing a college has a lot of variables that once analyzed leads to more confusion and why wouldn't it? A burger lasts for thirty minutes, an education lasts for your lifetime. So then how do you begin ideating on a college list? Well, you start with the generic search: find the countries that fascinate you, look at top colleges, and start reading. Reading and research gets you a long way into understanding the kind of education an institution offers and where you might fit in. Reading also allows you to understand your likes or dislikes. You may love the major but hate the location, or love the weather but the political situation in the area might be in conflict with your beliefs. These are all things that make decisions and no one opinion is small. Remember, that even the smartest kids choose not to go to Harvard because its not made for everyone. A college is an acquired taste and research can help you understand what might be the closest to what you want.
Willard Cox, a well known admissions counsellor describes college search like finding the perfect house. You begin with an image of what you would like and then go out shopping. You see what the market has to offer and while there may not be the exact perfect house, you find that you can make accommodations with what the market has to offer, or better yet find things in a house (like a fireplace or a sunroom) that you absolutely love and didn't even account for. I love this analogy because of how close it is to the college search process. Once you are versed with what a college can/ should have (i.e. understand the basic structure of a “house") you can create a list of must have expectations and go out shopping.
This is how we work with our students. We give them the basic building blocks through links and books, and then take them on a virtual sale by talking to them, sexting up interviews, and most importantly by having the experience of seeing more than 200 colleges, a majority of which we take notes about and blog as we go along. Conversations about college expectations can change the colleges and even complete career goals. We have had many students who just wanted to apply to the top US News ranked schools but through ideating realized that their wants and desires were a complete mismatch and that perhaps a smaller liberal arts school was the way forward for them.
Students that are just starting out on their college list, here are three things that you should do:
- Research so that you can come up with a set of expectations what you need in a college
- Talk to as many people as possible. Don't be swayed by only one opinion and try to construct of your own
- Be open to change. The list you start with will not be the one you will end with.
Of course, if you still have questions, have a chat with us. We are always happy to help!