How to choose the right college
First, let us identify a few wrong ways to go about finding the right college: Google search, asking friends or relatives, and ChatGPT to name a few. As far as internet tools go, the answer is only as good as the question. And where people are concerned, remember, their response is always, always only from their own perspective since they don't have any idea about what you're looking for.
First, you must determine what you mean by “the right college” as there are so many options available. Some of the key factors to consider are: University Size, Major or Concentration, Public vs Private University, Employment Potential, Cost of Education, and University Rank. These criteria are explored further below. Some of these criteria may carry more weight than others depending on individual priorities.
University Size: A large university - between 18,000 to 30,000+ students - will have as many as 400 or more students in a lecture hall, usually followed by break-up sessions, each with about 50 students. On the other hand, a small university, with a student body count of 1500 - 5000, will consist of between 15 and 30 students even in the lecture format. This difference can be critical if you’re one who has difficulty in being a part of a large lecture and a big campus. Smaller colleges provide the same high quality education that their larger counterparts do. They, however, often do not have graduate study programs, resulting in a lack of research opportunities for undergraduate students.
Major or Concentration: Not all universities or colleges offer the same number of majors of the variations of a particular major; some universities differentiate a major from a concentration. As a rule of thumb the larger universities offer more majors overall, as well as more derivations of a particular subject or major. As such, you will have the ability to switch majors or select a minor more easily in a bigger university. Of course, if you’re clear and firm about the major you want to pursue, then these points may not affect your decision.
Public vs Private University: While one can dig deep - and get lost - into this topic, there are some salient differences between the two types of universities. First, and foremost, is that public universities are partially funded by the state in which they operate. As such, they have to accommodate some of the requirements of the state – such as the percentage of state residents to be admitted or cost of tuition. Private universities, as a rule, are exempt from state interference and have more freedom in selecting students. However, any legal ruling like the one recently handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court on race-based admissions will be binding on all universities. Private universities also tend to hand out larger scholarships, and more often. The
really well-known public universities lean toward a larger student body and bigger class sizes. Some of the private universities and colleges are very small, thus affording a lower class size, although they would charge higher tuition.
Employment Potential: This, of course, is a critical component since most students will want to get at least some experience prior to either moving on to graduate school or returning home. While employment opportunities depend more directly on the major, grades obtained, and other factors, one should always research the market demand for one’s field of study. As is abundantly clear, the technical market is growing faster than others, thus getting employed in this space is much easier - the university name hardly makes a difference. At the same time, those aspiring to pursue degrees in business, pre-law, premed, pure sciences or liberal arts should pay close attention to the reputation of the university. A business degree, for instance, from a top university has higher chances of landing a job compared to a not-so-well ranked university.
Cost of Tuition: Some countries offer 3-year degrees for certain majors while the U.S. only offers 4-year undergraduate programs regardless of the major. Nevertheless, you should expect to spend between $40,000 to $60,000 annually, including tuition, living, and other expenses. Although some universities do offer scholarships, you should always be prepared for the cost given here. For those parents for whom the cost is a primary concern, our advice is you work with a good counselor who can accommodate your needs. Whether the benefits of an international education outweigh the costs is a very personal decision and is best left to each family.
University Rank: It may surprise you to know that Uwezo Learning believes the rank of a university should not be a deciding factor in college selection. First, rankings are done by different organizations by taking various factors into account - not at all consistent. Secondly, if you consider the other evaluation criteria described above, that will be more helpful in choosing the right college. Rankings are rigged to play to people’s emotions, so don’t fall victim to that game. Ultimately, what matters is a good education that doesn’t overburden your brain or your wallet.