Choices seem so important to us. We believe that they are what will lead us to success or failure or somewhere in between. Likewise, as May 1st approaches, seniors in high schools around the World who are planning to attend universities in the USA or in Canada are becoming increasingly anxious. They have to choose among their choices and the weight of this responsibility keeps them awake at night. My words are to those stressed out teens:
First of all, be thankful that you have choices, there is nothing better than the luxury of having alternatives to consider-the more the better.
So, sit down with pen and paper in your mind and start the decision-making process by defining your criteria. This is important because this is where your free will comes in. For some, academic excellence is top criterion, for others its social atmosphere and so on. All you have to do is to jumble the following and/or add some of your own until you find your own top 5:
- Academic excellence in research
- Competitiveness of student body (you may or may not favor this)
- Hands on opportunities (co-op, international internships…)
- Study abroad opportunities
- Faculty to Student ratio(small classes? Accessible professors?)
- Campus location (urban, suburban, rural?)
- Campus size (2000 students? 10 000 students? 65 000 students?)
- Scholarships/Cost of attendance
- Athletics/teams/sports/school spirit
- Dorms/Housing facilities
- Employment on campus
- International student ratio?
- After graduation opportunities.
- Anything else?
Next: access accurate knowledge about universities. How? Alumni, current students, web pages, virtual tours, webinars etc.
Next: eliminate based on the matching of your criteria and the knowledge you have accumulated.
Next: if you are down to two or three and they all seem equally fine, trust your lucky starts and make your decision.
Finally, you should know that although there are hundreds of articles telling you that “you are the sum of your choices,” that is not really true. Choices are a first step, true and you should be careful, but it is all the interaction with life after you have reached the destination you have chosen that will prove whether you have made a good choice or not. Your choices may seem successful or not at different times of your life so you can never judge them “once and for all.” The first semester you may feel you have made an excellent choice as life brings you wonderful friendships and a happy academic life, which may change when you find that your choice of school or major does not open the doors of recruitment in yoıur senior year. It is the ever-changing priority lists we have that make our decisions so volatile.
So, what do I suggest? After making your list and reflecting on your research, trust your instincts, pick your school and don’t think about it anymore. Once you get there, hopefully in September, make the most of your experience and remember it is not where you are that counts as much as what you are doing there.