Hamilton Gregg is the founder of International Educational Consulting and has worked in education since 1985. He helps students and their families understand their personal and educational needs and find the right school to meet their requirements. If you are a student or parent who would like to ask Gregg a question on our blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Decisions in hand it’s time to consider where to go. Whatever your situation, it’s important to go back and review a number of factors before making that final commitment. For some students it’s easy – their dreams have come true! For others there may be some hard choices to make. Over the last week I have met with a number of students. Some of them are over the moon, some are pleased with the outcome, and a few are disheartened.
This year was very competitive. Most schools had record-breaking numbers of applications. With those increased applications come lower acceptance rates. Schools that normally are “easier” to get into became harder. So the students who are pleased with their results, I think, understand that they did quite well.
For the students who are dissatisfied, lets look at the reality of the situation. Many times the "dissatisfaction" comes from several sources. Their parents are not pleased, or perhaps their peers think they could have done better, or they themselves are obsessed with ranking and the school isn’t highly ranked enough.
Remember, you will be challenged no matter where you go. Amazing students attend all sorts of schools – they don’t just go to top schools. The US and many other countries are not as test score focused as Asian countries. Top students attend big schools, and small schools, schools with name recognition and those without it. Why?
Because they realize that they can achieve a good education wherever they choose to go, or have to go. Consider a student who cannot afford to pay or does not want to accept the debt associated with top school tuition. Some students may want to stay closer to home. Some choose the school their parents attended. Going to school in the US will require you to think more democratically.
As I mentioned, attending school is about what you make of your education and the opportunities available at that school. I recently read an article about a man who attended an Ivy League schools for both his undergraduate and MBA programs. He has been unemployed for the last 18 months despite the fact that he was at the top of his career when he lost his job during the financial crisis. So students and parents who assume that an elite education guarantees financial security are much mistaken.
If you are ranking obsessed, that is really too bad because there are thousands of schools (4000 in the US) where education happens. Education is not just about what happens in the classroom. It happens by living, experiencing and developing both academic knowledge and critical thinking, analytical thinking and communication skills. You have lots of opportunities to grow and be challenged.
If you are worried about what other people think then it is time to become an independent thinker. You are going to school, not them. Your opinion should be yours alone. Developing the maturity to prove others wrong is part of becoming an adult. While they may have your best interests in mind, they cannot foresee the future.
I know that I have been a bit general in some of these statements but my point is this, go find the challenge. Life, unfortunately, is filled with rejection and review; revising and making new plans. There is a time for everything. Since, this may have been the first time you have been evaluated for who you are, it is an important lesson in life to learn that not every one can appreciate who you are.
Let’s look at some numbers for some universities this year at some of the top US Schools:
- Stanford: 42,167 applications with a 5.1% admission rate
- Harvard: 34,295 at 5.9%
- Brown: 30,432 at 8.1%
- UCLA: 86,000 at 18%
- USC: 47,358 at 20%
Please be aware that if you are an international student you are a fraction of the total percentage above. For example, if a school has a 20% admission rate and 15% of the students are international, then you are not only in the 15% but most likely you are a fraction of that 15% because of where you come from.
It’s time to take a serious look at your options. I am hoping that you have more than one. In order to sort all this out, write it down rather than try to do this evaluation all in your head. I recommend that you go back and consider some of the information that you used or should have used, when you created your list in the first place. Things like: Size of the school, location, faculty/student ratio, percentage of returning freshmen, internship possibilities, graduate school acceptance (and where), career options, companies that hire from that school, first year courses (core requirements, distribution requirements,freshman seminars etc.), and potential majors. If you are going off to boarding school, some of these factors obviously make no sense, but you should consider where students go after graduating from high school as well as some of the other pertinent factors above.
Once you have a list, put them on the left hand side of a piece of paper and create a value for each item. Up to you how you value each one, but this is the personal bit of this exercise. Across the top of the paper, put the names of the schools you are considering. Using your criteria calculate the total for each school. This should give you the analysis that you need to make the best decision.
One last thing. There is no wrong choice in where you go to school except second-guessing your final choice. Make the decision and go. Don’t look back, don’t think "if I only went to… I would be fitter, happier, more productive…" Just make the decision, send the deposit by the May 1 deadline and go get your education there.
Photo courtesy of impact hub (flickr)