Prestige, reputation, cost, location are some of the reasons cited by students who have chosen a college to attend next fall. Choosing the right college can be a stressing process for some, but for others the choice is easy. “They gave me a full scholarship…how can I refuse that?” says Mario, a hispanic student from California. “I was admitted to Princeton. It’s by far the most prestigious university in the world,” says Li-Mai, a student from China. Sure, some choices are really easy, but there are others which are a bit more complicated.
Most of the time is not a matter of gaining admission to a good university, but the fact that 18 year old students and their parents do not have $30,000 dollars to pay for their first year of college. Some of these talented students opt for less expensive choices like state universities or community colleges. Some of them apply for all the scholarships they can find, but in the end they can just gather enough to pay for a semester or two. Although financial assistance and scholarships help a lot when it comes to choosing a college, students still need to make a careful decision about their academic investment. Is prestige really worth $30,000 per year? Can you and your parents afford it, or can you settle for a less expensive university? Do you want to go to an ivy league school for “prestige” and “social acceptance” or because you really see the great academic programs and knowledge these universities offer you? Some students need to think about this.
“Location, location, location” is a phrase that is not only applicable in real estate but also in college decisions. You need to look at the college location. Is it rural or urban? What is the main industry in that area? What’s the unemployment rate? You can be surprised by how difficult it is to find a job in some areas with a prestigious college degree, and how you will find tons of jobs in other areas with a local college degree. Sometimes companies prefer “local” students. You might be from Japan and living in Canton, Ohio, but if you graduated from the same university the company’s CEO did, then you are “family”. But if you are a city person who loves to walk everywhere and go out with friends at 3 in the morning, then big cities such as Boston and New York will fit your lifestyle.
Some students care more about the knowledge and experiences they can acquire during their college years. “If you want a real American experience, choose places where you won’t be able to find many of your countrymen,” says Manuel, an international student from Colombia studying at a university in Oklahoma. “I’ve seen it before – Students come to the U.S. and start hanging out with other students who speak their native language and $5,000 later they can’t even place an order at a local restaurant. You came to the U.S., you paid money for your experience and now you want results, so please try to integrate yourself to the American society – their values, their laws, their language and their culture. You’ll go back a richer person in every single way. “
And last but not least consider your environment. “I feel like I can express myself in smaller groups. It gives me confidence,” says Karina, a student from Ecuador. Some universities are smaller than others and this is a big advantage for some international students who feel really shy when they first come to the states. Smaller classes give you the opportunity to make friends and feel “at home” and this is definitely a plus when it comes to expressing your thoughts and exchanging ideas in class. Of course, there are some students that prefer larger schools. “This university has more resources and more people will recognize it. I work in research and that’s how I get my grants,” says Anthony, a Greek student studying Anthropology at a university in New York. A big university is an advantage when it comes to resources, the number of professors, students, facilities and money for the school. It can also be a disadvantage when it comes to developing relationships with your professors or your dean due to the great number of students they must attend to on a daily basis.
There are some decisions in life that need careful consideration. This is one of the most important decisions in your life, and without a doubt an investment that needs to be critically evaluated. You need to look at the factors mentioned above and more before choosing your university, your new journey and starting point.
Denisse Romero Study Abroad and Travel Advisor www.macquil.com