Truth be told – there’s really no such thing as the ‘best university’, only the right fit. How do you find a university that is right for you?
By Tiffany Wong | Admissions Counselor
Before you know it, you are now faced with one of the most important decisions of your life – which university should you choose among thousands of them. So how do you begin your college search?
The danger of solely relying on rankings
“Top 10 universities in London”
“Top 5 courses to guarantee best career prospects”
“Best universities for psychology”
Are these the search keywords that you put in when you wonder which university or course you shall consider? No doubt, university rankings is usually the first source of reference when parents and students make the initial round of screening. But I hope you are all smart enough to make sure you do not fall into the trap of relying on these rankings alone, which hardly take into account the personal circumstances that actually impact you as a student. You should also be extra cautious about the assessment criteria and methodology of these rankings. Some may be judging universities based on student retention rate. By far, I have yet to come across with any parent or student who would tell me that is an important factor when they look for a university. I just cannot help but wonder how much insight these rankings could offer about college experience.
Don’t just listen to mom (or your cousin’s neighbor)
Let me guess. Other than checking out rankings, you also visited school fairs, registered to have piles of university brochures to be mailed to your door, stalked a few undergraduates’ social media accounts hoping to get a taste of what campus life is like. You have read so much here and there on the internet, joined some forums (and now checked out the Kaplan blog) only to feel more overwhelmed than ever by the vast information you see online. Eventually, you get tired of thinking about which school to apply to and which course to take, not to mention the standardized tests and the application essay you need to prepare for. I get it. The whole admission process just seems draining to most parents and students. While I appreciate that you are busy juggling between your studies and your extra-curricular activities and so on, I strongly caution you to take your time to carefully consider what would make a good fit for you.
Do not just copy your friend’s choice and listen to your neighbor without doing your own research.
After all, it is you who would be going to that college and studying that subject for the next few years or so. Do take responsibility for the choice you make.
What should you consider?
You would then wonder, what else, and what exactly you should be keeping in mind when choosing which universities to apply to. I recommend making a table listing out your preferences and comparing what different universities can offer.
Here is a quick guide of what you could compare when choosing universities:-
- Subject offering
- Location, weather and environment
- Campus and facilities
- Course fees
- Cost of living
As for choosing a course that is best suited for you, do look into the following:-
- Grade requirements
- Language proficiency requirements (especially for international students)
- Course-related experience (eg. work experience, art portfolio, etc.)
- Course-related admission tests
- Duration of study
And here comes the deep talk to yourself:-
- Find out your interests and passion
- Discover your strengths and weaknesses
- Evaluate your chance of admission
Forget about the rankings
There is just no such thing as the ‘best university’ or the ‘best course’, only the right course for the right student. I cannot stress this enough.
Choosing your college degree is a potentially lifetime decision, so it is definitely worth more of your time researching a little more than just the grade requirements and the course outline on the university website.
Just like every student is unique, each university must have its own strengths, culture and values. No one-size-fits-all ranking shall give you a quick simple answer when it comes to college application. Put those rankings behind you right now and start looking into practical college planning advice.
MS TIFFANY WONG
BA Law & Business, Warwick University (UK)
TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), Trinity College London
Marymount Secondary School (Hong Kong)
- Over 8 years of experience in admissions counselling and test prep
- 100% success rate in securing at least 1 university offer from top 3 choices (UK universities)
- Formulated a unique strategy in creating competitive advantage for international applicants
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