Applying to American Universities

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As a High School Counselor for 45 years one of my greatest frustrations has revolved around the failure of my students to research their college/university choices sufficiently well enough to make a wise decision. Good decision making takes more than a few steps but after defining the problem one really needs to research the options to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, in the “College Selection & Application Process” (CSAP) that second step, the research, often results in no more than a glance at the latest US News and World Report issue on “The Best Colleges and Universities in America”. Sorry, but from a counseling perspective, that, simply, is unacceptable.

HS Counselors involved in activities as the CSAP are more often than not looking to assist the applicant in making an “appropriate choice.” Counselor vernacular refers to this as a “good match.” Sadly, what most applicants and their parents are looking at is the “reputation” of the college or university. Frequently in this business the counselor is asked, “What is the rank of the university?” As a counselor in Thailand for the past 18 years I have often been told, “If my son doesn’t get in to Harvard, Stanford or MIT, then he will attend a Thai university.” This is very frustrating as there are many lesser known colleges and universities in America that provide an outstanding education which will be passed over solely for the lack of name recognition. The choice of college or university in the USA deserves a far greater look than just the few names that sit at the top of some list determined by criteria that have little to do with an institution’s quality of education.

Let’s use an applicant who has indicated that he/she is interested in studying Business as a university major as an example. There are a number of specific questions that should be researched and answered prior to submitting any application being sent. These include:

  • Are the courses offered done by lecture or are they project or action based?
  • Can a student do a “double major” in liberal arts (which provides leadership skills)?
  • How is technology used in your courses?
  • Do you have internships, co-operative or other experiential learning programs?
  • Are you professors accessible?
  • How do your students rate your professors?
  • What and how many organizations on campus are business related?
  • How supportive is your Career Center in helping students find employment?
  • How effective has your Alumni Association been in helping grads find employment?
  • Where have your graduates found employment immediately upon graduation?
  • What per cent of your graduates have been offered employment prior to graduation?

Certainly, answers to these questions would provide greater reason as to why a student might apply to a specific university. Significantly, the information providing the answers to these questions is available either through the university admissions office or social media. Additionally, if an interview is part of the admissions process either at the university campus or with an alumni, a student who has researched the above questions will be that much better prepared for the interview. Equally so, when asked to comment in a required essay as to why the applicant is applying to said school, the essay will be that much stronger for having researched the university. Possessing such information enables the applicant to impress the reader of an essay or an interviewer when having done the research.

KPIS students will have an advantage over other applicants if they take the time to truly research the universities to which they are going to apply. Much information is available in the KPIS Counseling Office to assist our students with this research. Parents are welcome to join in as well.

Submitted by:
John E. Carr KPIS Director of Counseling