Choosing the right college

As you lead up to the high school mark, come grade 9, you will notice conversation slowly veering towards subject choices – Which ones are the right ones for you? Which subjects deliver the best results with least effort? Do you enjoy learning them? What are the higher education pathways and career options for these subjects?

Types of Colleges

What are the different types of colleges you need to consider? Do you plan to study in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia or Singapore? Is your choice a 4 year program or a 5 year one?

Location

Which country would you want to live in over the next 4-5 years? Why? Do you have a clear reason? Is your reason personal? If you have very concrete reasons for these choices, then you’re on the right track. My son was, and still is, a keen Liverpool football fan and, by grade 9, was convinced that the route to a happy life was to study, work and live in the UK so he could watch his favourite sport over weekends. At first, this seemed to me an atrocious way to pick universities. But he was adamant, and today he is a happy and well-balanced medical student, pursuing his dream to be a doctor in the UK.

The kind of college you join will dictate the type of campus you will live on. Why is this important or relevant, you ask? Well, this is where you will spend the next 4-5 impressionable years of your life. Do you enjoy the anonymity of being on a big campus or do you prefer a more personal, small boutique university? City or suburbs? Depending on what you’re used to, this can actually affect how well you adjust to the university experience. Visiting a campus can give you a clear feel of what to expect while living there as a student. There are many ways you can maximise your college campus tour experience, but more about that at another time!

Costs

College tuition can be a huge burden for many families, but there are various ways in which this can be managed. In another section, we will discuss ways in which your financial goals can be managed through aid. For now, we focus on how to ascertain the right college for you. For American colleges, we would check if their admission process is need-aware or need-blind. Need-aware universities take students’ financial situations into account when they decide whether to accept or reject applications. Need-blind don’t, but may not be able to meet your full financial requirements without student loans. More on this in another blog post…

Majors

A college major should ideally be a subject you really, really enjoy studying; because that is what they’ll be spending the most time doing. Do not agonise over the major before college begins! There is time to figure out what to major in once you delve into the subjects you love. First, ask yourself what school subjects you love the most? Next, do you like a couple of them more than the rest? Would you prefer to focus on just one? Do some research, along with your parents, on what career choices are available to you if you choose to major in your favourite subjects.

Size

The next thing to consider is the size of college to study in. Large colleges are those with over 15,000 students. Campuses tend to be sprawling over several acres and every department might well be a micro college on its own. Medium-sized colleges are those with 10,000-15,000 students and small ones have less than 5000 students. These are boutique-style campuses with a cosy vibe. Knowing whether you’d like to be a big fish in a little pond or a small fish in a big pond can help fine tune those choices further. Large colleges also mean larger class sizes whereas smaller colleges may offer individual interaction between lecturers and students and smaller learning groups. Which style suits you more?

The earlier you start to think about this, the clearer you will be about your choices and goals. Planning the journey ahead means becoming more aware of your own learning styles and aspirations. This, along with the right advisor to guide your family, can pave the way to a smooth admissions process – one that is free from stress and anxiety.

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