Choosing a university to study abroad in America or Canada can be exciting but at the same time can be really stressful. We have discussed How to Choose A University in a previous blog post. However, sometimes finding the right fit and making the right decision can be quite confusing especially because of the many options. In this blog post we will look at seven mistakes students make when choosing a university.
1. “Because my family says so”
The experience of your family is valid and their opinions could contribute to your decision, however, it should not be the primary reason why you choose a university. With reference to Samantha Schreiber’s viral meme, one of the common mistakes made by students when choosing a university is, only seeking advice from friends and family. Getting opinions from other people is good, but it can get overwhelming to have too many different sentiments with everyone telling you what to do. This can make your decision-making process more daunting.
Keep in mind that each individual will go through a unique experience. Try to understand what makes a university the right fit for you. Seek advice from professionals, but also from people who understand the process, such as your school counsellor or your teacher. In the end, YOU are going to be at the university for the next four years, and the decision you make dictates YOUR future experience.
2. “I want to go to the same university as my friend (or girlfriend/boyfriend)”
Following a friend may sound like a good idea because it allows us to hold on to something or someone familiar and closer to home. When choosing a university, you need to remind yourself that the most important piece of the puzzle is YOU. Ask yourself, what are your aspirations in life? And what do you aim to achieve? In most cases you may not share the same goals as your friend; in fact, when you get to university, you may be surprised how both of you change (for better or worse).
Allow yourself to explore who you are as a person. This doesn’t mean that you lose out on the people in your life – your relations will evolve and that is normal. Where a boyfriend/girlfriend is concerned, a lasting relation is only tested through time.
3. “I want to be far away from home”
Growing up can be exciting! You want to be independent and have freedom to pursue and follow what your heart wants without curfews and rules. When choosing a university, you may be tempted to pick the furthest place from home. Whereas that may feel like the best decision to make at that time, remember that homesickness is a reality and the further you are, the less likely you are to travel to see your family and vice versa.
Independence is great but the distance from home should not be a reason why you decide to choose a university.
4. “It’s ranked top 100 so it must be a good school”
Relying on reputation based on ranking, prestige or design of the school does not indicate whether it is the right fit for you. Just because a school is difficult to get into, does not always equate to a good experience for every student who gets in. At AHEC we believe that ranking does not determine the personal success of a student. Which is why we help students identify their university triangle and what makes a school the right fit for you and your interests.
There are more than 2,500 four-year universities and colleges in the US and Canada. Many of us in Kenya only know of a handful, which are mostly top ranked universities. Based on factors to consider when looking at a university you need to identify your needs as a student and the experience that will help you achieve your goals, which is not determined by ranking alone.
5. “I will only go to an NCAA Division 1 school”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a collegiate athletic organization in the US. Many times, we have found students choose a university based on their athletic teams. Where sports are an important aspect to many of us, university is multifaceted and offers experiences and exposure in different areas that go beyond athletics. The primary focus being academic for the majority of us.
Having a one-track mind when choosing a university is never advisable. Although collegiate sports may have always been a dream for you, it is important to understand that if that route doesn’t work out – you still have numerous opportunities at your disposal. A university experience is not limited to one area of your life, and offers a lot more than most students expect.
6. Rushing with the decision
Understanding and finding the right fit of university takes ample time and effort. This is because if followed correctly, your process will include the research, the application and admission process before you make a final decision on where to enroll.
You want to avoid having any regrets which is why it is important, especially if you are an international student, to conduct enough research on all your schools and make a well-informed final decision. Take time to identify the pros and cons of each university based on your needs and interests. Take charge of your future.
7. “There is only one ‘right’ college for me”
It is very common to idealize a university experience and fall in love with one school that you believe will offer exactly what you want and will get you to your “dream job.” Up until now we have been talking about finding the ‘right fit’ of school. However, the right fit comes from extensive research and understanding how a university will benefit you. As you do your university research, chances are you may find other universities that offer most of what you want, thus could be the right fit for you. That is absolutely alright.
It is important to keep an open mind to the possibility that there is more than one option for you out there. Don’t limit yourself and don’t be afraid to look outside your comfort zone, although there should be a reason for every school on your list.
Samantha Schreiber is an Associate Director of College Counseling and Academic Planning at Milken Community Schools. She has previously worked as the assistant dean at Pomona College and Senior Assistant Director at University of Southern California. On one of her interviews with a local agency in the US, Schreiber expressed that college search is more about a student’s attitude and the ability of the students to take advantage on what the schools offer. She explains it is more about trusting yourself and making the best decision you can with the information that you have, knowing that the quality of your experience is very much up to you.