Choosing the Right University: Where to Begin?
Mr. Carl Gavin, KIS University Counselor and CAS Coordinator provides some great insights and advice to students who are in the process of selecting the right universities to apply to and ultimately attend.
1. Choosing the right university feels like a daunting task for students. Do you have any advice or techniques that can help students get started?
Start to plan earlier rather than later. Avoid reading ranking lists set up by dubious companies or ones put out by the universities themselves. Although alumni reports can be good, the university world has changed enormously in the past 5 to 10 years, and so anything beyond that will no longer bear any credence.
2. If a student has no idea what they want to study, where do they begin?
They need to go with things that they like and enjoy rather than allowing themselves to be pigeon holed, either by family, counselors or friends. Liberal Arts is always a good way to go if unsure and more and more countries are introducing this.
3. Would you mind to talk a little bit about Bridge U and how you plan to use it?
BridgeU is a tool which will allow all grades to look for universities which match their subject choices and interests. In later grades, it allows them to store information on their colleges of choice, gives them alternatives as well as suggestions of colleges which match their criteria, but which they may never have heard of. It can help them to write personal statements as well as US based essays. Counselors can use it to send off documentation to universities such as transcripts, references, and SAT scores. There is much that we have yet to learn, but we are very excited by it.
4. Are there other resources (online, books, etc) that you’ve found useful?
All universities now have amazingly detailed web pages where students can normally find out the broad strokes of the application information that they require. However, you can never beat actually going to fairs and meeting the admissions people themselves. These are the people who will read the students’ applications and a little personal touch can do no harm. We have so many universities and colleges that visit Bangkok and KIS annually that it is a real shame that more students do not take advantage of the opportunity. I have books on majors and colleges in my office and in the library which the students are always welcome to have a look at.
5. Which factors do you feel are most important in deciding if a specific university is right for you? Can you describe what is meant “best fit university”?
We talk about best “fit.” That fit is financial, it is the size of classes and who teaches them (Professor or grad student?), it is whether the students want to be in town or country, to play sport or to be a member of the computer club. Does the chosen course have a lecturer that the student really wants to study under? Do they want to go surfing or skiing? Best fit is the myriad of things that, apart just from the course content, go to make a student’s life at university as comfortable as possible. More students need to think about these types of things.
6. Forbes and US News and World Report’s ratings of universities are often scrutinized as not being objective enough. Are there any reliable sources for students to rate universities?
We counselors have a network where we ask each other for a good fit school for a student who “**************” and we tend to get and give excellent unbiased opinions. I am afraid that one can never truly get away from the US News type lists, but when you do see them, remember that there are ways and means of messing with statistics.
7. Ivy League Universities: are they worth the hype?
No. They are there for a certain type of student; I would also include OxBridge and any other “top” brand national universities. Many of them are there because of their age and monetary status. This does not necessarily make them the best teaching institutions.
8. How many universities should an average student apply to?
I am not sure that there is a “golden” number, but they should certainly be looking at a reach school, two matches and two safeties. To me, having a massive list of universities just means that the student has not carried out their research properly.
9. How can parents support their children in considering university options?
Always talk with your kids, but try to give them room to make their own decisions. Just because mum is an engineer does not mean that Cindy wants to be one too. Do not poo poo “of the wall” ideas: everyone has to start somewhere.
10. When should students start thinking about university? Are there things that students can do early that will help them get into their dream school?
The University that each kid goes to should be their “dream” school. The IB gives students a great grounding educationally, but reading books will always help them with their SAT scores. Therefore, reading books, and not school based ones, will help. Exploring possibilities for careers can begin at any age: there are no jobs anymore that are only open to one sex, so parents can help by encouraging their kids’ dreams no matter what they might be.
11. Any other thoughts/suggestions?
Work with the counselor, your family, and university people. Get in touch with universities that interest you. Read “around” your chosen subject: do not just read the stuff on the syllabus, but also any other interesting books and articles. Attend university fairs and make yourself known to the admissions crowd. Remember that time flies; work out a timeline with your counselor in order to have every eventuality covered. Above all, be true to yourself, do not apply to places because of their name or position on a list, and apply because it is truly where you want to study.