Thursday, October 29, 2015

Finding the University That’s the Right Fit For You

Originally posted on 

There are thousands of colleges and universities out there to choose from. You can become overwhelmed with the “needle in a haystack” feeling when trying to find the right college or university that fits you.

There are schools with over 30,000 students, and some with as few as several hundred. Some schools are located in the middle of very busy cities and some are found in the middle of the forest, surrounded by giant redwood trees. Co-ed or not, east coast or west coast – the choices are endless!

One of the tools I’ve found most helpful for my students is Big Future, which is a section of the College Board website where students can prepare and register for the SAT college entrance exam.

Step One: Explore Career Interests
If I ask you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” you might have a vision of what you would like to do as a career. Using your career interest, you can start your search by clicking “Careers” under the “Explore Careers” section.

On the website, there are comprehensive descriptions of hundreds of careers. For instance, a student who might be interested in Computer Programming as a career can find desired personal characteristics for that specific career, courses to take in high school to best prepare, as well as average compensation for the desired career. Once the career is explored, you can go into more detail on the education needed and discover college majors by clicking “related majors” on the right column.

Step Two: What is a College Major?
A college major is what you will study in college which will give you the focused study and knowledge needed for your future career.

On Big Future, my student who wants to be a Computer Programmer found that a related major for his career would be, “Computer Science”. The description for the college major goes into more detail on the college degree required for the career of interest. This page also lists helpful high school courses, typical college courses, and more.

On the college major page you can click on “Which colleges offer a major in…” on the right hand column to start your college and university search for that particular major.

Step Three: Narrow Down the Search
Working with my student who wants to major in Computer Science, we found 915 college and universities that offer a study in Computer Science across the United States on the website. This includes community colleges, 4-year universities, and for-profit schools. That was way too many schools to search through so we decided to use the search filters to narrow down our list.

Big Future allows you to narrow down the search options by test scores and selectivity. A student would use their SAT/ACT scores to narrow down the college list.

I would also use a student’s high school class ranking in order to gauge how selective a college or university might be in choosing them. Class ranking can be found on a student’s high school transcript. So, if a student is in the bottom 50% of his class, I would choose the “somewhat elective” and “less selective” schools in the college search.

These filters narrowed down our list of 915 schools to 448.

Other filters on Big Future for the college and university search include type of school, location, campus housing, school activities, and more.

Working with my student who wants to major in Computer Science, we narrowed down his list of colleges and universities to public or private 4-year universities which were less than 500 miles from home. These filters narrowed down our list of colleges and universities from 447 to 24 schools.

You can now click on each college and university to learn more about it. If you create an account on Big Future, you can save the college and university by clicking, “Add to My College List”. 

Having a list of potential colleges and universities, like one you can create on Big Future, is a great start to finding the school that’s right for you. Sharing your list with your school counselor and asking for their advice in tandem with your academic record is a great way to ensure your choices are a good fit for you.

Looking for a college or university can be overwhelming, but with the right tools and a positive mind-set, it’s a task that can be easily done!