Picking the right college can be stressful and daunting for almost everyone. It's normal to feel overwhelmed as this decision is an extremely important factor in your undergraduate education, and that is why you must consider various factors while deciding where to apply.
Deciding which college is right for you can be a very difficult challenge. Some of us don't even know where to begin. Hopefully, this article can be used as a guide in short-listing the colleges you want to apply to.
1. Will you be applying internationally or not?
Firstly, you must figure out whether you want to stay in your country or apply internationally. If you think that an international destination suits you better, then where in the world do you see yourself going to school? Be practical, and look at the different universities you would like to attend in different countries that pique your interest.
Look at the laws/regulations of the country you will be living in for the next four years, as well as the immigration laws if you are planning on staying behind, as this is often overlooked by many students. If you do want to stay in the country you will study in, make sure to understand the opportunities the country provides for careers, education, and residency.
2. Your ideal Major and Future Careers:
At this point in your academic journey, you should have a rough idea of what you want to major in, which may most likely correlate to your future career path. I know it feels like a big burden for people to decide their major and hone in on the fact that it dictates their whole work life from that point on, but don't be stressed as anything can happen and you could utilize your major to succeed in a whole other stream.
For now, decide on what you see yourself interested in studying for the next 4 years and pick a couple of options for different majors. According to this, you will now find universities that best fit your stream of interest and can best capture your potential in the given field. Remember that in the United States, you are able to change your major many times during your course.
However, this is not the same for most places in the world. You must thoroughly research this to pick the best options for you.
3. Requirements: Grades, Extracurriculars, and much more...
This is the crucial part. Now that you have your list of possible universities that interest you after your research, you must shorten the list by being reasonable according to your profile. Research on the requirements for admission to each university you have picked and terminate those that are not possible.
Always apply to safety schools, reach schools, and, of course, your dream schools. Have a variety to be prepared for any outcome.
Make sure you are meeting the requirements of the universities you are applying to, otherwise there is a high chance you will not get accepted and you will have wasted your money on an impractical application. Grades firstly can be a make-or-break point for most universities. If you show consistently good grades or an upwards slope, you are good to go. If your grades are more on the average side, you can cover up for this in your profile through your extracurricular activities, whether this is a sport you are really good at, leadership roles, community service, outreach, etc.
Your essays also play a crucial part in your application, so make sure to devote a good chunk of time to that. One thing that I believe to be crucial in your application is something that sets you apart-do something that makes you different from the thousands of other applicants applying, and do something that is special and meaningful to you so you can take it to the next level and have it stand out in your application.
If you are reading this as a freshman or sophomore, start now. Begin your profile building the earliest you can because your academics get harder as you go on and you will need time to focus on that, so it's good to get a head start on your extracurricular activities as soon as possible.
4. Financial Needs and Tuition
This is not a factor to consider so late on the list but is one of great significance. If you are able to afford the universities on your list so far, then great! You can make no changes to your list.
If not, you either eliminate those you cannot afford, apply for scholarships, or try to get a student loan. Now, for each of these options, there must be a thorough decision-making process that should mainly be done by your parents as they are a vital part of this process, as well.
Applying for scholarships also requires a certain level of requirements that must be met by you. There are need-based and merit-based scholarships. Do more research into what is needed and possible for you to apply through and give it your best shot!
Student loans are, of course, a stressful topic, since they can be a burden on you for years to go on. Make sure you will be able to repay the loan if you are looking towards taking one.
One more point I would like to include here is the cost of applying. This can range anywhere from around $30 to $100. Remember to have your final list along with the cost of applying to the university, so you can see how many places you can approximately afford to apply to. This is important since at the end of the day you should be able to apply to your choices on your college list.
5. Housing, faculty, student body, campus...
Now, for further short-listing, you can look into the different universities you are finally ready to apply to and see whether you are comfortable with the safety, city, conditions of housing, campus, etc. These are all important factors to not leave out as this university will be your home, more or less, for the next three to four years. Make sure you are happy with the decisions you make, and I cannot stress this enough.
6. Early Action, Early Decision, or Regular Decision.
After creating your college list, you can now decide when you want to apply. This is critical to the application process as the timing changes the chance of your acceptance. Do research on what each university and each country offers. Make sure you apply only to ONE dream college for your early decision application, as it is BINDING and you cannot withdraw your placement.
I hope this article helped you to get somewhat of an idea of how to create a college list and most of the factors you need to consider. Make sure to devote time to this process as it is part of a critical decision in your life. Best of luck and I hope all of you get into your dream schools!