Archive for the 'Selecting Colleges' Category

Transferring Schools

The United States’ education system is unusual in that allows students to transfer from one school to another.   Deciding to transfer is a very important decision to make during your college career.  For some students, it was always part of the plan.  This is especially so for students who attend community colleges the first couple of years of their college careers to keep costs down and others who were not happy with the standing of the colleges they had been admitted to at high school.  The most common reasons for transferring are:

    Moving from a two-year community college to a four-year college/university

      Many students, domestic and international, who want to purse a degree in the United States assume that they have to be admitted to a top university right out of high school.  Some students do not realize that they can attend a community college the first two years and then transfer to a university to finish off the remaining couple of years.  Others are aware but still do not believe that community colleges are real colleges.  However, attending a community college might be the most practical choice for some students.  The main advantages of community colleges are:

      (i)                 Reduced Cost

      Community colleges have far lower tuition costs than 4-year universities.  By attending a community college for the first two years of tertiary education, the student can save a significant amount of money.  So if the student is short on funding and does not have the test scores or grades to have been awarded a merit scholarship, community colleges might be a viable option.

      (ii)               Transferring to your dream school

      If a student does not have the GPA or standardized test scores to get into the desired four-year college, the student can use time at a community college to build up academic skills and prove that he or she is a serious student.  When the student applies for a transfer to a four-year school, the admissions offices of these schools will consider the community college grades more heavily than the student’s high school records.

      (iii)             Exploring majors

      Many students begin their tertiary education not knowing what they intend to major in.  Community colleges are the perfect place for such self-exploration because not only are they cheaper, they allow for students to take a far wider range of courses in different departments than do their four-year counterparts.  At big universities, classes in specific departments are often limited to students who have been accepted to a particular major.  This is never the case in community colleges.

        • Trying to get into a better school

          For those students who want a second try at their dream schools or for those who simply want to trade up, transferring after your freshman or sophomore year might be an option.  It is much easier to get into selective schools as a sophomore/junior than as a freshman, provided that you have the requisite college grades.  Now that you have a college record, colleges and universities will be far more interested in your college grades than your high school grades.  This is not to say that your high school grades and standardized test scores will not have to submitted, but their significance will be overshadowed by your undergraduate college performance.  Also, recommendations will be coming from professors at the college level and not from your high school teachers.  This means that you will have had to establish a good and deep relationship with two to three professors during the course of your one to two years at the first college or university.  This can sometimes be hard because many of the introductory college classes are taught in large groups and it can be difficult for students to create opportunities for one-on-one contact with the professors.  This means that the student will have to go the extra mile to engage the professor, either by speaking to the professor after class or during his or her office-hours, and seeking to work with the professor on a specific project in which there is substantial interaction between the professor and the student.

            • Finding a school that offers a major that is unavailable at your current school

              Given that US schools generally only require students to declare their majors in their sophomore year, sometimes students do not realize their preferred majors are unavailable at their schools until they have attended classes for a full year.  Students transferring for this reason are best advised to research which schools are highly respected in their preferred major before making their transfer choice.

                • The college you are attending is not a good match socially or academically

                  To avoid making this mistake again, it would be best that you follow the steps outlined in Chapter 5.  This time however, you would have had one or two years college experience under your belt and with added maturity, you will have an enhanced ability to discern what wrong premises and bases you took into account when you made your college choice a year or two ago.  Understanding those faults in your decision making process will allow you to better approach this round of decisions.

                  Transfer Essay/Personal Statement:

                  Apart from assessing your college performance so far and judging the level of extracurricular activity that you were engaged in, the other important piece of this puzzle would be the personal statement that you will have to write as part of the transfer application.  Like when you applied to college from high school, this needs to be an impactful and convincing piece of writing.    In fact, the college admissions dean will be expecting this piece of writing to be more mature and insightful as compared to a high school applicant.  In your personal statement, there are certain points that you must seek to cover and convey effectively to the admissions committee.

                  (a)    Why do you want to transfer?

                  (b)   Why do you want to transfer specifically to that school?

                  (c)    Why you have strong academic reasons to transfer?

                  (d)   What did you learn about yourself during those first few years of college?

                  (e)    How do you think you would be able to contribute to your new college?

                  Transferring Credits:

                  Keep in mind that some credits may not be transferable.  It is best for you to check with the school to assess how many of your completed “credits” can be transferred as this may influence your decision of whether or not to transfer.

                  If you are transferring from a two-year school to a four-year school, you may be required to retake courses that you have already completed at the community college. Furthermore, some schools require you to complete a minimum number of credits at your new school before you can graduate (usually 60 credits or 2 years of coursework). This may delay your graduation date.

                  Finalizing Your List of Colleges

                  As you begin the process of narrowing down your initial candidate list of 20 or so schools, you will begin to start realizing that there is no perfect college or university.  For each of the schools on your list, there will be defining characteristics and elements which you like and ones which you dislike.  There will be a large number of schools that fit your list of preferences and have both the academic and the extracurricular programs that are of interest to you.

                  With over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, it is important that you put into some time into researching the schools which you are considering applying to because academics and course offerings aside, you have to take into account the social aspects and dynamics of the various campuses.  This is where you will be spending the next four or five years of your life and you certainly do not want to be miserable and socially unfulfilled during this time.

                  At this stage of the process, it is imperative that you keep an open mind and be receptive to new schools which you have never heard of but might a be great fit.  You never know what is out there unless you keep an open mind and actively research.  Research is essential for making a good college decision and this means collecting date from a broad range of objective sources and being objective in your assessment.

                  As mentioned previously, the initial list of schools you want to research should be quite long.  Here at Students International, we recommend our clients to start with a list of about 20-25 schools, and eventually working their way down to 8-12 schools.  In the final list, we recommend that you categorize the schools into three different categories so that you can view visually the range of schools which you will be applying to.  They should be categorized into the following categories:

                  (i)                 Reach Schools

                  Reach schools are generally the most selective as well as the most unpredictable schools on your list.  The profile for a reach school will be higher than your profit and that your chances of admission are low.  We recommend at most that students apply to 3-4 reach schools from their initial list if they are applying to 8-12 schools in total.  At Students International, we often encounter very strong students who are top at the high schools and have very strong standardized test scores and on this account feel that the top schools should be Mid-Level for them.  A word of caution; all of the most-selective schools are reaches.  So even if you have best grades in the state/city/high school, a highly selective school such as Harvard or Yale is always a reach for you.  These schools reject hundreds of outstanding candidates every year, many of them who have perfect test scores.   If you are a top student, by all means keep highly selective colleges on your list.  But please put several well-researched backup schools on your list with admission rates above 20%.

                  (ii)              Target Schools

                  The profile of a mid-level school should be similar to your profile as well as your personal preferences.  When examining the profile for admitted students at schools, take into aspects of your candidacy such as

                  (a)    High school GPA

                  (b)   High school course load

                  (c)    Standardized test scores

                  (d)   Extracurricular activities

                  (e)    Leadership roles in high school years.

                  Out of the three categories of schools to which you will be applying, you should have several target schools on your list.  So if you are applying to 8-12 schools, 5-8 of those schools just be from this category.

                  It is worth nothing that given that mid-level schools represent the bulk of your applications that you take into account the fact that your chances may be lower if you apply to a special program/course of study.  So if you are applying to a business or engineering school within a particular university, the admissions standards might be higher for you than if you were applying to a general course at that same university.  What does this mean for you?  It means that there are instances that your grades and scores may be a match for the college but a reach for the program. Do your homework and find out the statistics of students admitted to that program.  You do not want to be caught flat footed.

                  (iii)             Safety Schools

                  Safety schools are ones from which you can reasonably expect admissions based on the college’s profile and your numbers.  This means that your grades and standardized test scores are significantly higher than the school’s average scores.  Provided there are no major errors on your part, e.g. bad recommendation letters, missed application deadlines, past academic misconduct, you should be admitted to schools in this category.

                  However, keep in mind that there is truly no such a thing as a sure thing, especially in college admissions.  For example, some schools actually reject overqualified applicants if they think the applicant is using the school as a “safety school” and is therefore unlikely to enroll if admitted.  If the school accepts too many students who decline to enroll, it will lower the school’s college ranking by lowering its selectivity score (accepted/applied) and yield rate (enrolled/admitted).  This is especially true of schools that are used to being the “safety school” in a particular group, e.g. Dartmouth and Cornell as safety schools for the Ivy League.  Make sure that you have two or three reliable schools on your list that you really like in the event that one or two of your safety schools rejects you for some reason.

                  Just a word of caution about this process of narrowing down your list; remember that you are not at this point choosing where you will eventually end up, all you are doing is formulating a list that allows you to have the greatest number of good college options in April.  So there is no point in choosing purely Reach schools because you do not want to risk not getting in anywhere.  Be realistic about the process but yet at the same time, it is important that you choose schools that you want to go to, and this applies to your Probable schools as well.  You need to have eight or twelve first choices, instead of having a first, third and last choice.  This way, you will not only manage your expectations but also apply the same amount of enthusiasm and effort into each of the applications.

                  Multitude of resources at your fingertips

                  As you are exploring schools and doing research, you should begin to narrow your list to the schools you will visit, and then ultimately to the schools you plan to apply to in the fall.  There are a variety of resources at your disposal as you begin exploring and researching colleges.  Here are some of the resources which you should certainly employ during this crucial evaluative process:

                  1. Internet

                  The Internet has become a powerful tool in researching colleges, careers and financial aid.  Apart from the universities’ websites, there are a long list of reliable and objectives websites which you should definitely use in your research.

                  Here is a list of some of the best websites out there:

                  (i) http://www.collegeboard.org/
                  This site is sponsored by the College Board.  In addition to allowing the user to conduct a college search, users can also access other College Board services such as registering for the SAT/PSAT/AP, access SAT practice questions, and obtain scholarship information.

                  (ii) http://www.petersons.com
                  Peterson’s provides information on study abroad, careers and summer programs as well as the usual information on colleges. Along with the College Board site, this is one of the most useful resources for college researchers.

                  (iii) http://www.usnews.com/
                  This address takes the user to the site of US News and Report and their ratings/rankings of colleges as published in the magazine. The site also gives the user the opportunity to compare college statistics, search for scholarships and access many articles regarding education.

                  (iv) http://www.gocollege.com/
                  A college search, scholarship search, SAT/ACT practice tests and links to college life sites are available at this address.

                  (v) http://www.review.com/
                  This site is maintained by the Princeton Review. It not only allows you to access its test preparation services, but also provides scholarship information.  It also has a section for parents’ issues.

                  (vi) http://www.collegeparents.org/
                  The College Parents Association sponsors this site which includes a section on scholarship scams, alcohol abuse on campus and many other topics of concern to parents sending their children off to college.

                  (vii) http://camustours.com/
                  This site offers virtual campus tours for thousands of colleges and universities as well as information on financial aid, and a college admissions message board.

                  (viii) http://studyusa.com/

                  This site is a great resource for international students, providing information on a wide range of topics.  It provides information on all levels of study in the US and is available in many different languages.

                  (ix) http://collegeviewbooks.com/index.html

                  By completing this simple form you can have college applications and viewbooks mailed directly to your residence

                  (x) http://www.collegesource.org/

                  This website is a free database of over 51,000 digital course catalogs.

                  • College Guidebooks

                  College Guidebooks such as The Fiske Guide to Colleges, The College Handbook, The Insider’s Guide to Colleges, and Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges, just to name a few, provide a wealth of information. Most are updated yearly.  Consult your college advisor or counselor’s office, local bookstore, library, etc.  While guidebooks can be helpful, realize that many are written from a subjective point of view, and should not be used as your only resource.  Guidebooks should be used in conjunction with viewbooks, the Web, and campus visits.

                  • College Viewbooks/College Catalogs/College Videos-DVDs

                  These are available from most schools.  The viewbooks generally provide a wonderful pictorial view of the campus along with information about entrance requirements, student life, and financial aid.  But please bear in mind that when you read these view books that you are seeing the school through the marketing arm of the college or university.

                  Videos and DVDs, like viewbooks, are more promotional, yet they can provide you a feel for a campus greater than the pictures in the viewbook.

                  College bulletins or course catalogues will give you in-depth information about major programs and other academic opportunities such as study abroad programs and curriculum requirements.  The catalog will provide an indication of the depth and breath of courses offered. Many catalogs are available online through the College Source website (http://www.collegesource.org/)

                  • College fairs

                  College fairs provide an excellent way to gather information about a variety of schools and add your name to the schools’ mailing lists. When choosing a college, you need all the information you can get.  But visiting each campus can be expensive so before visiting all the colleges on your initial list, it is better to have narrowed down that list substantially.  This is where college fairs come in.

                  This is especially so for international students attending college fairs in their home country/home city.  These fairs are sometimes held by a single university but most times, schools participate at university fairs where many different colleges and universities are represented in one venue.

                  When you attend college fairs, be prepared with a few questions, and try to visit with as many representatives as possible.  One suggestion would be to take printed address labels with you to avoid filling out cards at every table.  These labels should include your name, address, home phone, email address, graduation year, social security number if applicable, high school name, and areas of interest.

                  At these fairs, there will be many booths to visit and people to talk to.  You have to be very focused at these fairs to get the most out of them.  Here are some tips:

                  (i)                 If you have access to the list of college participating in the fair beforehand, review the list and plan to visit the colleges that interest you most.

                  (ii)               If there is a map provide at the fair or beforehand, plan a route to avoid back-tracking and getting confused.

                  (iii)             Many fairs will have an area where experts give speeches.  Block out some time to attend the speeches which are relevant to you.

                  (iv)             After each college booth visit, spend a couple of minutes to write down what information you have learned.  You will not remember all of it when you get home if you haven’t at least written a few lines down after each booth.

                  Here are some sample questions which you could pose to the college representatives:

                  (i)                 What kind of students is your college looking for?

                  (ii)               What is your college known for?

                  (iii)             What is the size of your college?

                  (iv)             What is the men-women ratio?

                  (v)               What is the area surrounding the campus like?

                  (vi)             What qualities do admitted students possess?

                  (vii)           Do you offer Early Decision or Early Action?

                  (viii)         What are the most popular majors?

                  (ix)             What is the academic environment like?

                  (x)               Are there opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research?

                  (xi)             What is the cost of attendance?

                  (xii)           What percentage of students receive financial aid?

                  (xiii)         Does the application for financial aid affect admissions chances?

                  (xiv)         Is housing guaranteed for students?  If so, for how many years?

                  (xv)           What support groups are provided for students?

                  (xvi)         What kind of sports facilities does the school possess?

                  (xvii)       How accessible are professors both inside and outside the classroom?  Do they have office hours?

                  (xviii)     Do professors or teacher assistants teach the entry-level courses?

                  (xix)         What sort of career support does the career services office provide?

                  (xx)           Does the school organize career fairs?

                  (xxi)         Does the career office help find the students summer internships?

                  (xxii)       Is there the chance to study abroad?

                  • College Visits

                  Choosing a college that is right for you is best done in person, rather than relying upon literature and word-of-mouth. Being able to see firsthand where you will be spending your next 4 to 6 years gives advantages that just cannot be achieved by going over the brochures that you have been presented with.  Time and time again, new students arrive on the doorstep of their college without learning just what their new school has to offer, or where anything will be located.  This can lead to numerous problems that can include disappointment, realizations that you did not expect, and unforeseen expenses that you may not have expected before arriving on campus.  There are however, some simple tasks that you can undertake, and a few preparations that you can make to save yourself the stress of jumping into this whole new world of college.

                  In our experience here at Students International, we have realized that the campus visit has a great impact on students and their decision on where to attend college.  So if you can afford the expense of making the trip, you should definitely do so because it will lend valuable context and depth to an otherwise abstract decision making process.

                  Generally speaking, if you are visiting the campus as a freshman or sophomore in high school, you might not be able to set up an official college visit which can include an interview.  You will however be able to join the regular campus tours which will be more than enough to get a feel for life on that particular campus.  If you are a junior in high school or are an international students, you should email the college rep to set up an official college visit an interview.

                  Many schools, in their bid to attract the best and the brightest, go to great lengths to make an impact on their visitors.   If the school allows for it, let the college rep know about your personal interests and educational needs so that they can customize your visit. In addition to scheduling group information sessions and allow you to participate in a student-led campus tour, some schools will even arrange for you to speak with a professor in the field you would like to pursue at college, maybe even the dean of that college or department. They will even arrange for you to sit in on classes and have an interview with the dean of admissions.

                  In any case, if you have the opportunity to make one of these visits, you should definitely put in the extra little effort to get the most out of your visit.  Go to the school’s admissions office websites to obtain the phone number to make the necessary arrangements.

                  Tip: If you cannot afford to make the trip, almost all colleges and universities provide video programs about their schools on their admissions websites.  But another, less biased choice for armchair screening tours found online at the  Collegiate Choice Walking Tours The website can be found at http://www.collegiatechoice.com/ and the clips are videotaped at both U.S. and international universities.  Although the videos are not as professionally put together as the promotional DVDs that colleges and universities give out, they are obviously for this same reason less biased.  The camera basically records a student-led tour of the campus, including questions from members of the tour group.  This is no substitution for a first-hand visit, but if you simply cannot afford to go in person, it’s the next-best thing!

                  The Game Plan for the Campus Visit:

                  Remember that once you have arranged to make the trip to visit the campus, you need to make the trip a worthwhile one, so that the investment in time and money does not go to waste.  The reason why you are physically there on campus is to ascertain and evaluate certain characteristics that cannot be gleaned from the internet, college fairs, or college guidebooks, etc.

                  To get the most out of the college visit, you must not only come to the school with an open mind devoid of prejudices and expectations, but also come with clear parameters for your inquiry.  This means being clear from the outset of the visit what characteristics of the school you seek to uncover during the several hours you are physically on campus.  This will help you to remember what you have observed during the tour and it will better aid you in your subsequent decision of which school to apply to and which school you would like to ultimately attend.

                  The best way to do this is to write down a list of questions for yourself before the visit and to answer these questions as you go along the tour. During this visit, apart from speaking to representatives of the school, you should try to speak with some members of the student body to get a real student feel of the place.  In fact, if you know any friends from high school who attend the particular college or university, get in touch with them and get them to show you around and take you to some of their classes.  If you do not know who from you high school attends the particular college or university, you can always contact your high school guidance counselor to find out who is there from your high school.  Ultimately, students are the best sources of information when it comes to college/campus culture.

                  Below, I have provided some important questions you should be asking yourself as you embark on this campus visit.  Do not feel you need to have all the questions answered.  Pick the most important questions from each of the categories and address those questions to the relevant individuals.  I have split up the questions into different categories so that you know who to address what questions to during this visit.  You should do this same for each of the schools you visit.

                  Questions for the Admissions Office

                  1. Are the dorms spread throughout the campus or clustered in one area? Is there any kind of shuttle service between classroom areas, the library, the student union, and dorms? How late does it run?
                  2. Is there any security system to bar outsiders from entering dorms?
                  3. How large is the campus security police force? Does it patrol the campus regularly?
                  4. What services are offered by the campus health center? How large is it?
                  5. Does the student health center refer students to the local hospital? Is there a nearby hospital? How large is it?

                  Questions for Students

                  1. How many of your courses are taught by a big-name professor and how many by a teaching assistant? Who teaches the lab sessions?
                  2. How large are the classes?
                  3. Is the teaching innovative and project-oriented, or is it mostly lecture-oriented?
                  4. Do most freshmen class lectures take place in an amphitheater?
                  5. Have you ever been in a faculty member’s home?  How often?
                  6. What are the strong majors? The weak majors?
                  7. How hard do you have to work for your grades?
                  8. Where do the students study?  In the libraries or in the dormitories?
                  9. What’s the reputation of the _____________ department?
                  10. How adequate for your needs is the campus computer network?
                  11. Do fraternities and sororities dominate the social life of the college?
                  12. What do students do on weekends? Do most go home?
                  13. Where do most of the students hang out?
                  14. What would you change about this college?
                  15. What is the biggest student issue around here?
                  16. How is the advisement system? Do you feel that your professors really care?
                  17. There are a lot of organizations on campus. Are they dominated by a few groups or is anyone welcome?
                  18. How active is the _________ [fill in the activity in which you’re interested]? Has _________ won any national awards?

                  Questions to Ask Yourself About the Campus Atmosphere

                  1. While you were waiting for your interview in the admissions office, how did the staff members interact with students? Were they friendly, or did the staff approach students—both potential freshmen like you and enrolled students—as if they were interfering with the staff members’ jobs?
                  2. Was the Admissions Office a friendly and inviting place with a great deal of information about the school, or was it cold and sterile with little information to pick up?
                  3. What did your parents find out about the career planning services offered to graduating seniors and to graduates? What do the services include?

                  About the Student Body

                  1. Do most of the students seem to be like you, or are they completely different?
                  2. Either way, how would you feel being in a classroom full of these students? Sharing a dorm with them?
                  3. Do the students try to make you feel at home? Are they happy to answer your questions, or do they make you feel like you’re intruding? How do they interact with one another?
                  4. Do the students talk a lot about grades?
                  5. Do students talk about politics and current events/issues?
                  6. How do students spend their time outside the classroom?  How do students spend their weekends?

                  About the Campus

                  1. Does the campus seem too big? Or too small?
                  2. Do freshmen live in their own dorms? How do I feel about living in a single-sex or coed dorm?
                  3. Are the dorms quiet or noisy? Do they seem crowded?
                  4. How large are the rooms? Is there adequate space and light to study?
                  5. Does each room have access to the Internet and the campus LAN?
                  6. What’s advertised on dorm and classroom bulletin boards? What does this tell me about campus life?
                  7. How good is the lighting around each dorm and around classroom and lab buildings?
                  8. Do the buildings and grounds look well cared for? Or do they need painting and general repair work?
                  9. Is the grass cut, and are the grounds landscaped?
                  10. What’s the condition of the playing fields and the sports equipment?
                  11. How is the quality of the food in the cafeteria or dining hall? How are the sizes of the portions? Is it healthy or fast food? Are there meal plans?

                  About the Nearby Area

                  1. Does it look like there is much to do outside of campus?
                  2. How easy is to get to places off campus? Are there places within walking distance?
                  3. Do you feel comfortable and safe?
                  4. Are there places to get extra furniture, like bookcases, for your dorm room?
                  5. Is there a supermarket nearby to stock up on snacks and soda?
                  6. If you move out of a dorm after freshman year, what are the options in apartment complexes or buildings?

                  In closing, we want to caution you against making the mistake of visiting too many schools on one trip, although if you are travelling great distances this might be the only choice.  The reason why we advise against this is that students who do so tend to get the schools mixed up.  One way of alleviating the confusion is to prepare the questions as mentioned above and answer them during the campus visit so you have some notes to refer to when you finally get home.  Also, students should not be spending too much time away from school because at this juncture, the most important thing for the student to do is to obtain the best possible grades in high school and best possible scores in the various standardized tests.  Without these academic achievements, these campus visits would be pointless and meaningless.

                  The Guide to Selecting Colleges

                  As you begin your research into possible US colleges and universities, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer range of options.  After all, there are more than 4,000 accredited higher education institutions in the United States.  Instead of focusing on one school, the most effective way of approaching this stage of the application process is to select an initial pool of colleges for consideration.

                  The key is to start the process early, and focus on factors which are important to you.  You should keep an open mind and cast your net as wide as possible.  And as you start your research into each of these shortlisted schools, and gain more information about the various institutions, only then should you work towards your final list of 8 to 12 schools.

                  As mentioned, selecting a large pool of schools, perhaps 20 to 25, affords you the luxury of subsequently eliminating schools that you feel upon further research do not suit you.  Even after crossing a bunch of schools off the list, you will still be left with a very full range of schools to apply to.   Here, at Students International, we work with our clients to estimate their chances of admissions to each range/tier of schools and advise them accordingly on their final list.

                  At this stage of the application, the student needs to be objective and honest about his/her chances.  Often, we encounter clients who have absolutely unrealistic goals, a situation which slows down the school selection process and takes time away from crafting the personal statement.

                  To choose an initial pool of schools, you will have to decide which factors are most important to you when making such a life-changing choice.  We have compiled a list of what I think are the ten most important factors that will help you select schools that would match your needs and requirements.   Ultimately, you will be responsible for weighing the importance of each of these factors to you.  A piece of advice though; try your best not to be too rigid in your list of schools and your preferences for these schools because both of these may change as you learn more about the individual schools and about yourself.

                  The 10 most important factors are as follows:

                  1. Geographic Location

                    For many domestic as well as international students, the geographic location of a college or university is one of the most important factors when approaching the school selection process.  The considerations for domestic and international students might differ slightly but for the most part, they will be similar.

                    For domestic students, students might decide to go to college in a different region of the country from where they grew up.  Others might want to stay near their hometown or at least be within driving distance.  While others might be attracted to the bring lights of a big city after having grown up in a rural or suburban neighborhood.

                    For international students, the considerations tend to hinge on whether they prefer to study in an urban setting, a suburban setting, or in a rural setting.  The reason for this is that many international students will be leaving their home country for the very first time and some of them might not want to be exposed to the full onslaught of American culture all at once by living in a large metropolitan area.  At the same time, in large metropolitan cities like Chicago or New York, there is usually a higher chance that international students might find more people from their home studying or working in the city, allowing for a social network that can provide valuable social and emotional support for students new to the U.S.   Hence, for all these various reasons, some international students like the idea of living near a large US city, while others may prefer to study just outside of the city proper in a suburb, or even in a small town farther away from an urban center.

                    My advice here is to take into account the area of study that appeals to you, what geographic points of interest are located near to the school and whether or not the international student support system is right for you.

                    Here at Students International, we work with our students to get an overview of each state in the United States, educating them on the history of the state, the major cities within the state, the climate of the area and other important demographic details that international students generally deem important.

                    2. Enrollment

                      US college and universities vary in size, perhaps more so than anywhere else in the world.  In terms of undergraduate enrollment, many of the smaller private liberal arts colleges average in the low 1000s whereas many of the state universities have upwards of 30,000 undergraduate students.  In light of such numerical diversity, just how would a student go about choosing the right academic environment?  This decision will ultimately be yours to make and much of it will be based on things you have found out about yourself in the self-assessment process, as recommended in chapter 1.  Understanding how you learn best and how you socialize best will be determinative of what kind of school you should attend.

                      In determining what size school you wish to attend, consider a range of school sizes around what you currently believe is the ideal size. For example, if you currently believe that you want to attend a small, intimate college of fewer than 2,000 students, your initial pool of colleges should focus on colleges in the range from 1,000-5,000 students with one or two colleges in the 5,000 to 15,000 student range.

                      Upon visiting colleges and learning more about them, you may discover that you prefer a larger college than you previously thought. It is unlikely that you will switch your preference to colleges in the 20,000-35,000 student range; however, it is not unusual for students to slightly modify their preferences.

                      3. Campus Setting and Campus Safety

                        Another factor that is important for many students is the campus environment. On one side of the spectrum is a college like Cornell University in a bucolic setting in upstate New York, surrounded by forests and mountains. On the other side of the spectrum, is New York University or Fordham University in the center of New York City with a campus indistinguishable from businesses and with many busy streets going between the college buildings and dormitories. In case your preferences change as you learn more about the colleges, you may wish to select colleges a few colleges outside the setting you currently prefer.

                        Very closely linked to the issue of Campus Setting is the issue of Campus Safety.  It goes without saying that bigger cities tend to have higher crime rates than rural areas but it is important to put things into perspective.  For many prospective students and parents of prospective students, this would be the first time that he or she would be looking at crime figures, be it in his hometown/ home country or at the locality of the college or university.  Hence, to put the crime rates in perspective, you may want to obtain the crime rates for your home neighborhood/hometown/home country and/or those of your high school.

                        The best way to find out about college safety and what a college does to ensure the safety and security of its students is to talk to current students or recent alumni  In addition, you may wish to call the office of the dean of students or the campus security office to ask about the presence of campus security officers, the availability of transportation around campus, escort services at night, the presence of outdoor lighting and emergency phones on campus, dorm entrance security, and campus and surrounding neighborhood crime rates.  If you are visiting the college, ask your tour guide and other students about safety concerns on and off-campus.

                        4. International Student Offices and Associations

                          Studying in the United States is a rewarding experience, but navigating your way through day-to-day issues can be daunting and difficult.   Most international students find that the college and university international student office is a great help in helping them adapt to a culturally and academically different environment. The mission of all international student office is to assist students like you, and there is often a wide range of student services that they provide.  For instance, most colleges and universities offer an Orientation Program upon your arrival, to not only help you navigate the campus but also impart some cultural lessons on the US.  Throughout your time in the U.S., they can help answer questions you may have regarding your visa status, financial situation, housing, employment possibilities, health concerns and more. If you choose to complete your degree in the United States, this office often provides resume and employment assistance as graduation nears. The international student office will be an invaluable source of information and help as you make the transition into academic and cultural life in the United States.

                          Additionally, almost all colleges and universities have international student associations.  These associations are student-led and they are generally not limited to international students but open to domestic students as well.  In fact, they are generally open to everyone interested in different nations and cultural backgrounds.  These associations plan and coordinate a variety of programs to enrich students’ life on campus, and in the process enhancing international understanding and friendship and promoting awareness and understanding of the international student community at that particular college or university.  At larger academic institutions, apart from these international student associations, there will also be country-specific international students groups.  For many new international students, these organizations provide a very helpful social network in that for many people new to the United States, many of the students having been in the US for a couple of years and are therefore able to advice newcomers on a wide range of topics.   The foreign culture and linguistic barriers might be very disconcerting and prohibitive for international students and these social groupings help to ease the transition

                          5. International Recognition

                            Although many international students want to gain US work experience after they graduate, many of them ultimately want to return to their home country to continue their careers.  Hence, it is very understandable that many international students are very concerned about the reputation of the US universities of which they are considering back in the context of their home countries.  Because without reputation and recognition, international students might be worried that prospective employers might not want to hire them on the account of their having gone to a un-reputable university.  Given the subjective nature of reputation and recognition, especially when we are talking about the reputation of these US universities not in their domestic context but in foreign countries, it becomes very tricky to ascertain and determine the localized perceptions of the various US universities, and this certainly varies from country to country.  Of course, it goes with saying that the Ivy League universities and the other Top 25 universities do not suffer from anonymity and do not require any introduction, even outside the American context.   But what about the rest?

                            A good way of judging the perception of a particular country in your home country is to look at the size, strength and influence of the alumni networks established in that country and the easiest way to do that is looking at the country’s alumni association for the particular university.  What is an alumni association?  An alumni association is a group of graduates from a particular university who set up an independent group for the purpose of organizing social and university-related events.  These associations often organize social events, publish newsletters, and raise funds for the university.  They also serve as a way for graduates to maintain connections to not only their university, but also with their fellow graduates.  Additionally, these groups usually seek to support and help new alumni in the local area, and provide a venue for which both personal and business relationships can be established between graduates of that particular university.

                            As mentioned, the one concern for parents and students is that if the student pursues their university education in a foreign country, the student will not have the opportunity to establish social and business contacts in the home country and make not being able to secure a good job on his or her return.  This is compounded by the fact that many employers in the home country might not have a good understanding of American universities and might not even have heard of most American universities apart from the most internationally famous ones.   Although there is some truth in this, it does not take into account that certain US universities have huge numbers of international students and because these international students find themselves in a foreign country and needing the help of their peers, very often, the bonds that they establish with one another are often deeper that the ties built between students studying locally.

                            Upon graduation, many of these same students return to their homes countries to start their careers. During their professional lives, they continue to help and support the friends they made in university both socially and professionally.  For this reason, it is very important that international students do not overlook the strength of the alumni network of US universities back in their home countries.  US universities with generally strong alumni networks outside of the US include:  University of Southern California, New York University, University of Michigan, Boston University, Michigan State University, University of Illinois, Purdue University, University of Texas-Austin, Indiana University, Cornell University, Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University.

                            6. Public VS Private

                              The debate over whether to attend a public university over a public university centers around three primary issues:  (i) Costs; (ii) Reputation and; (iii) Quality of Teaching.

                              (i) Costs:

                              Academic institutions in the United States are either publicly or privately funded.  Public colleges are supported and operated by individual states and the colleges in the state are partially funded by state tax dollars. Public schools receive about the majority of their funding from the state government. Since public colleges are partially funded by tax dollars and the state’s government, they generally cost less than private colleges.  Public colleges are a good deal for state residents because tuition and fees are reduced for them. Out-of-state and international students usually pay much more and at many of the top public universities, the tuition rates for out-of-state and international students are not all that much lower when compared to their private counterparts.

                              Private colleges are not funded by the state government or taxpayers but instead depend on tuition, fees, private gifts, corporate contributions and endowments. This means that private colleges are typically more expensive than public colleges. But for out-of-state and international students, the pricing gap between the two types of institutions is in reality a lot smaller.   Many people blindly assume a public college is cheaper than a private college. But the posted “sticker price” of a private college is rarely the real price. If a private college strongly appeals to you, consider waiting for its financial aid offer before making a final decision. More often than not, private colleges offer scholarships and grants that significantly cut your actual cost, even bringing it close to the cost of a public college. Private colleges comprise about half of the accredited college and universities in the U.S. They are located in all 50 states, except Wyoming.

                              For International Students:

                              For students who wish to study overseas, you’ll need to consider how to go about financing your education.  Tuition rates vary tremendously.  Generally, public universities are less expensive than private universities, though not always.  For public universities, tuition averages in the low $20,000s/year and for private universities, the figure averages in the low $30,000s/year.  Alternatively, students can opt to attend a community college the first two years, for which the tuition ranges between $5,000 to $10,000 a year, and then transfer to a four-year college to complete the remaining two years.  Many international students choose to attend community colleges for the cost savings.  Also, be clear on all of the institutional costs associated with your school. Books and material will factor into your school-related fees.

                              Additionally, you must also factor in the cost of living.  Naturally, the cost of living in different parts of the United States varies. In general, living in urban areas is more expensive than living in smaller towns or rural areas. Renting an apartment in a city can cost twice as much as it does in a smaller town. Likewise, food, clothing, and other living expenses may be more expensive in a city.  International students generally budget between USD$6,000 to USD$15,000 a year to cover such expenses.

                              Finally, students must factor in transportation costs, not just in terms of flying to the US, but costs associated with travelling to and from classes every day.  Find out if you will be using public transportation or walking. Many students save money by walking or purchasing a secondhand bicycle to get around.

                              Most universities publish expected total costs in their website or prospectus.  You should also contact the school’s office of international student affairs to learn about any additional costs that may be particular to you.

                              (ii) Reputation:

                              Many private schools flourish because of their reputations.  In contrast, with the exception of the “Public Ivies” (public universities which from a reputation standpoint rank as highly as other 25 universities), such as (i) UC Berkeley, (ii) University of Virginia, (iii) UCLA, (iv) University of Michigan, (v) University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, (vi) College of William & Mary, (v) University of Wisconsin, public universities often do not command the same amount of respect or recognition.  Whether or not this is warranted is debatable.

                              It is tempting to assume that investing in an education at a selective private college is worth it because your degree will be more valuable. But in reality many highly successful people graduated from public colleges which are often perceived as not being as academically rigorous.  For instance, a recent study showed that the University of Wisconsin tied with Harvard for educating the most CEOs of S&P 500 companies. The two schools, one of which is public and the other private, outranked Princeton, Stanford, Yale and other prestigious universities.  In this same study, which was written to debunk the notion that one needs a private university education to be successful, it also showed that Wisconsin grads were leading companies large and small. In the US alone, more than 1,050 UW-Madison alumni currently serve as a CEO of an organization. And, nearly 16,000 of the university’s alumni are serving in an executive management position. Many more are leading in other ways, through community service, education and research.

                              Perhaps, if you are set on getting a name-brand private college degree, you may have another option. If you plan to go on to a graduate or professional school, consider getting a lower cost undergraduate degree at a public college and attending a private college for your advanced degree.

                              In conclusion, often decades in the making, the very “name” of these schools still continue to evoke a distinct sense of pride. Some private schools develop superb reputations based on their holistic attitude towards academic and athletic success, schools such as the University of Notre Dame and Stanford University.   Although they are often seen as elitist, such schools command clout in the academic community. As talked about previously, reputation is an important consideration for both domestic and international students and however subjective should be given serious consideration.

                              (iii) Quality of Teaching:

                              Private schools generally have lower student-teacher class ratios than public schools and teachers foster strong relationships with both students and parents.  Student-faculty ratio is defined as the number of students enrolled divided by the number of teachers/counselors. In schools where the student-teacher ratio is low, teacher feedback is expected and is far more frequent than in most public schools.  Many of the top private universities and colleges have student-faculty ratio in the 6/1 to 10/1 range, while the biggest state universities generally fall in the range of 17/1 to 20/1.  To put into perspective, Yale University has a student-faculty ratio of 6/1 and Williams College has a student-faculty ratio of 7/1.  In contrast, state universities tend to have far higher ratios.  The University of Texas-Austin has a student-faculty ration of 17/1 and the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a student-faculty ration of 13/1.

                              It is been proven that student-faculty interaction is an important predictor of success in college. Specifically, a student’s ability to discuss class assignments and career plans with instructors, receive prompt feedback, and have an opportunity to work on a research project with faculty can directly impact the overall educational experience.  How exactly does student-faculty ration affect teaching quality though?

                              Firstly, the student-faculty ratio is a rough indicator of the resources put into the university’s educational mission. Opportunities for students to work more closely with faculty and to receive mentoring by faculty are restricted by the university’s high student-faculty ratio.  To provide students an education competitive with that provided by the best public universities in the country, comparable resources must be put into their education.

                              Secondly, faculty size is connected with the research productivity of the particular college or university in several ways: (i) More research is done by more faculty members; (ii) A critical mass of faculty working in related areas is needed for many research projects and increases the research productivity of faculty over what they could achieve individually; and (iii) The higher the student-faculty ratio, the more time faculty must spend in their roles as instructors as opposed to pursuing research and publication

                              Thirdly, faculty size is important for the success of interdisciplinary initiatives. Interdisciplinary research can be successful only if it can draw on strong disciplinary faculties and for this to happen, you need the requisite number of qualified faculty.  To the extent that a particular school’s disciplines are weak relative to peers as a result of not having sufficient faculty, the school will be at a competitive disadvantage with respect to developing and pursuing interdisciplinary initiatives.  Especially at the undergraduate level, where the benefits of pursuing a US undergraduate college lies in its broad-based educational approach, not be able to take advantage of the interdisciplinary aspects of the US undergraduate experience would certainly be a misfortune.

                              Fourthly, increasing faculty size is crucial for the school’s goal of increasing the strength of its graduate programs and the numbers of Ph.D. students that it trains. Graduate student mentoring is labor intensive, and hence, an increase in the number of graduate students trained must be accompanied by an increase in faculty to train them.

                              However, it is important to note that just because a particular school has a high student-faculty ratio, it does not mean that by attending the school that you would be receiving an inferior education?  That is hardly the case.   It is certainly true that access to professors may be limited, since each of the professors has hundreds of students. Also, some professors may be more focused on conducting research and publishing than teaching. Getting in touch with them when you need assistance after class can be difficult, especially if they are unfamiliar with you.  What it means is that you will have to find ways of maximizing the perhaps more limited resources which is why as mentioned before, it is imperative for you to understand what kind of student you are, if you are a self-motivated student of if you need more hand-holding and supervision. Involve yourself in the classroom as much as possible and this should help you get the attention of the instructor when you encounter a problem.  The top public universities often have the most accomplished and qualified faculty but because they do not have the time or resources to devote much one-on-one time with students, it is up to the individual students to seek the p

                              Among all U.S. universities, large state universities often include the largest percentage of international students and scholars.  State universities such as Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Texas-Austin, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Arizona State play hosts to the bulk of the international students coming to the United States.    Public universities play a critical role in regional and national economic, cultural, and civic development, and many are deeply involved in advancing knowledge and technology through research. These universities are among the major research universities in the United States and frequently have major involvement in international programs around the world.

                              (iv) Miscellaneous Considerations:

                              (a) Social Difficulties and Advantages in a large Public School

                              Some students find it very difficult to adjust and establish a good social network in large public  schools, particularly if they are introverted or not inclined to join student organizations, students at a larger school run a higher risk of feeling lonely or isolated. There is a much greater risk of this going on for a prolonged period of time at a large school, where classes are large and students number in the tens of thousands.

                              Conversely, if the student is so inclined, there are generally a lot more social opportunities at a state university.  Generally speaking, the campus on the state university is bustling at all hours, offering many social opportunities and a varied selection of extracurricular activities. Whether the university is situated in a college town or in the heart of a big city, you will have a much greater opportunity to meet and develop relationships with many different types of people, due to the dozens of extracurricular events that students can participate in at a large state school. Typically, the student body is incredibly diverse and very large so there is literally someone for everyone.

                              (b) Admission Disadvantages for Out-of-State and International Students

                              Public colleges give admission priority to state residents. Because there are fewer spaces for non-residents, requirements for out-of-state and international students can be more strict and admission more competitive.  This is very much the case at lower-tiered public universities.

                              At highly selective state universities, such as Berkeley, Michigan and Virginia however, your state residency won’t give you as much of an edge because you are competing with many other highly qualified state residents. A private college might view an out-of-state or international applicant positively because his or her residency helps create a geographically diverse student body.

                              (c) Time to Graduate

                              Savings from lower tuition may evaporate if you take more time to graduate than you planned. This unfortunate scenario can happen if it is difficult to get into the classes required for your major, a common situation at many public colleges. On average, private colleges show higher four-year graduation rates.  Given that resources are generally more limited in public universities than in private universities, classes may fill quickly, so you might not be able to get the schedule you want. Most public universities have a number of offerings for each course and class sizes may be very large, meaning the environment may not be as nurturing as a smaller college. Registering for classes quickly should be a priority throughout school, it can mean the difference between graduating in four years or six, so don’t delay.

                              7.  Academic Factors

                              1. National Universities vs. Regional Universities vs. Liberal Arts Colleges:

                                Universities are institutions of higher learning that consist of graduate schools, and professional schools (medicine, law, business, architecture), in addition to an undergraduate program.

                                (a)    National universities (as opposed to regional universities) award both graduate (masters and doctorates) and undergraduate degrees (bachelors of arts and sciences) and have a tendency to be larger and more research-oriented.

                                (b)   Regional universities (Universities-Master’s) are institutions that award both undergraduate and master’s degrees but they offer few if any doctorate programs.  Their appeal tends to be largely regional, meaning that they tend to draw students primarily from the surrounding states.  There are exceptions to this of course.  Some examples of academically superb institutions in this category include:

                                1. Bentley University (Massachusetts)
                                2. Butler University (Indiana)
                                3. Creighton University (Nebraska)
                                4. Drake University (Iowa)
                                5. Elon University (North Carolina)
                                6. Gonzaga University (Washington)
                                7. James Madison University (Virginia)
                                8. Loyola Marymount University (California)
                                9. Providence College (Rhode Island)

                                10.  Rollins College (Florida)

                                11.  Santa Clara University (California)

                                12.  Stetson University (Florida)

                                13.  Trinity University (Texas)

                                14.  Valparaiso University (Indiana)

                                15.  Villanova University (Pennsylvania)

                                (c)    Liberal Arts Colleges are usually smaller in enrollment than a university and the emphasis is placed on undergraduate education.  Liberal arts colleges offer a more traditional and general education in subjects such as literature, history, mathematics, natural science, social science, language, art, and music.  Perhaps the most important difference lies in the fact that these schools often require their students to take a substantial number of classes in courses which do not directly relate to their majors.  They do so in order to ensure that students receive a well-rounded education.  Such an approach towards education has proved to be popular and very effective.  In fact, other countries, such as Germany, Netherlands and Canada, have recently tried to replicate the model by establishing their own liberal arts colleges.   Top liberal arts colleges are incredibly difficult to gain admission to given the caliber of students they attract and their relatively small enrollments. Some examples of top liberal arts colleges include:

                                1. Amherst College
                                2. Barnard College
                                3. Bowdoin College
                                4. Bryn Mawr College
                                5. Carleton College
                                6. Claremont McKenna College
                                7. Davidson College
                                8. Haverford College
                                9. Middlebury College

                                10.  Pomona College

                                11.  Smith College

                                12.  Washington and Lee University

                                13.  Wellesley College

                                14.  Wesleyan University

                                15.  Vassar College

                                Are Liberal Arts Colleges suitable for International Students?

                                International students are often fixated with getting into an Ivy League or Top 25 university, many not realizing that they can obtain an equally good education at a top liberal arts college.  While they lack the name recognition of larger universities, the top liberal arts colleges are highly selective and compete with elite universities for students.

                                The skills required for entry level positions in US and abroad are quickly evolving towards higher-lever skill sets.  Skills such as analytical thinking, problem solving and presentation are becoming more important.  Jobs today require knowledge of more than one field and to be successful in the workplace, students require more than just a narrow body of knowledge.

                                Through a Liberal Arts Education, the student will gain a wide range of knowledge.  Coupled with the analytical skills that the student develops through coursework, the student who has benefited from such an educational experience will have the ability to develop his own opinions and beliefs, allowing him to succeed at work and in life.  International students are beginning to appreciate the benefits of such an education and many have chosen to attend liberal arts colleges over universities.

                                1. Most colleges and universities in the U.S. have multiple areas of academic focus, but not all. A good way to assess the academic focus of a college or university is to consider the most popular majors and the percentages of students in these majors. Some colleges have only one or a few academic focus.  This can apply to large institutions and large national universities as well as specialized colleges which only offer largely undergraduate instruction in one specialized area.  For example, California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both highly-ranked full-fledged national universities, specialize in largely in engineering and science-related subjects.  This is not to say they do not have other specialties, as exhibited by the fact that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology having a very strong social sciences department.  Additionally, you have specialized colleges that only offer instruction in one area of study (largely undergraduate focused), such as Babson College and Menlo College which specialize and offer only business-related subjects, while colleges such as the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology offering only Engineering and Mathematics courses at the undergraduate level.

                                Specialized colleges usually have a more in-depth selection of courses and more research opportunities than non-specialized colleges, though those opportunities are limited to a particular area. One perceived benefit of specialized colleges is that all students tend to have equally demanding and time-consuming curricula. Some students who attend specialized colleges claim that students in other majors who have less time-consuming curricula can be distracting. However, the uniformity of interest at specialized colleges can also be perceived as a disadvantage in that the student body has fewer diversified interests and the colleges generally offer fewer liberal arts courses.

                                8. Religious VS Non-Denominational

                                  Religion plays a variety of different roles at colleges and universities in the U.S. Most private colleges and all public colleges are secular; religion and religious organizations neither influence the operation of the college nor impact the college’s course requirements. Some colleges are operated by a religious organization and require religious activities and courses. Some colleges fall in between these two extremes and, though they may be associated with a particular religion, students of varying religions often attend these colleges and practice their own religions. These colleges often provide places of worship on campus which usually serve a number of religions. In addition, religion has varying influence on the curriculum at these colleges — courses in religion may or may not be required.

                                  Religiously affiliated colleges and universities defy a monolithic description. They are as diverse as their religious traditions and the higher education scene in the United States and to understand how and why their exist, it would be helpful to break this down into smaller parts

                                  (i) Religiousness

                                  On the religious front, colleges that are operated by religious organizations vary in their “secularity.” Secularity can be gauged by the percentage of lay (non-clergy) faculty and the percentage of students of other faiths attending the college. For example, Georgetown University is a Catholic university but of its 971 faculty members 948 are lay faculty and 44% of the student body is non-Catholic. On the other hand, Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut has no lay faculty and 100% of its students are Catholic.  On the size front, they are equally varied as well.

                                  (ii) Curricular Focus

                                  The curricular focus of religious-affiliated colleges and universities do not differ much from their secular counterparts.  However, they do generally have a focus on the liberal arts and a solid commitment to general education challenges students to integrate learning from a variety of disciplines. Most colleges require students to enroll in a prescribed number of hours of academic study in religion, philosophy, or ethics. For other institutions, the study of religion is optional. Co-curricular religious activities are present on all campuses and purely optional. These include worship, fellowship, study of the sacred texts of the religious tradition, service, and religious support. At one time nearly all colleges related to the Christian tradition required weekly or daily attendance at chapel; such a requirement now is the very rare exception rather than the rule.  In fact, to keep up with the ethnic and religious diversity that characterize American campuses Many colleges arrange for representatives of other faith traditions to offer programs on campus.

                                  (iii) Size of student body

                                  Although most religious-affiliated schools are liberal arts colleges with enrollments between 800 and 2,000 students, church-related higher education also includes large research universities (Boston College, Notre Dame, for example), medical colleges, professional schools, two-year colleges, theological seminaries, and Bible colleges.

                                  Many religiously affiliated universities and colleges regularly are highly ranked in various “best colleges” ratings in the United States.  Examples include universities such as:

                                  • Georgetown University in Washington D.C,
                                  • University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana,
                                  • Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts,
                                  • Fordham University in New York City,
                                  • Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts,
                                  • Pepperdine University in Malibu, California,
                                  • Baylor University in Waco, Texas and
                                  • Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California.

                                  Top Liberal Arts Colleges which have religious affiliations include Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina and College of The Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, which rank Number 9 and Number 35 in the US News and World Report Best Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings.

                                  9. Single Sex VS Co-educational

                                    (i)                 All-Women Colleges

                                    The vast majority of U.S. colleges and universities are coeducational. Although most women choose to attend coed colleges, women have a choice of eighty-two all-women colleges. Research shows that women who attend women’s colleges participate more in class, develop much higher self-esteem, and score higher in aptitude tests versus women in coed colleges. Some of the factors that promote these advantages include small classes taught by professors dedicated to teaching, a higher percentage of female faculty and administrators than coed colleges, and female students in all leadership roles on campus.  In addition, a higher percentage of women’s college attendees versus women in coed colleges are represented in important positions such as high-ranking/higher paying corporate positions.

                                    In fact, the success of women who have attended such colleges have been consistent across the professional spectrum.  On the political front, such colleges have produced heavy-weights such as Madeline Albright, the first woman secretary of state in the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former First Lady of the United States and currently the Secretary of State in the Obama Administration, and Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker of the House in the United States.  On the performing arts front, all-women’s colleges have produced people like Katherine Hepburn, the awarding winning actress, Meryl Streep, another award winning actress and the talented musician, Suzanne Vega.  On the literary front, graduates of women’s colleges include individuals such as Margaret Atwood, the important Canadian poet, feminist and social campaigner, Emily Dickinson, the prolific American poet, Sylvia Plath, the significant American novelist and Barbara Walters, the famous American journalist and media personality.

                                    Even internationally, graduates of women’s colleges have made their mark.  Benazir Bhutto, the first women elected to lead a Muslim state as Pakistan’s first and to date only female prime- minister, Soong May-ling/Madame Chiang Kai-shek, a noted politician and the former first lady of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Bing Xin, one of the most prolific Chinese writers of the twentieth century, are all graduates of all-women’s colleges.

                                    To put it into perspective, in a recent Business Week study, out of the 50 women who are considered to be rising stars in corporate America, 30 percent received their baccalaureate degrees from women’s colleges. 33 percent of the women board members of Fortune 1000 companies are women’s college graduates. Of all the women members of Congress, more than 20 percent attended women’s colleges. 20 percent of women identified by Black Enterprise Magazine as the 20 most powerful African-American women in corporate America graduated from women’s colleges. Nearly three-quarters of the women’s college graduates are in the work force. Almost half of the graduates in the work force hold traditionally male-dominated jobs at the higher end of the pay scale such as lawyer, physician or manager. Nearly half of the graduates have earned advanced degrees, and 81 percent have continued their education beyond college.  Pretty impressive statistics!

                                    According to the Women’s College Coalition, which is an association representing women’s colleges in the United States and Canada, research shows that students attending a women’s college enjoy these five benefits:

                                    1. Students participate more fully in and out of class.
                                    2. Students report greater satisfaction than their coed counterparts with their college experience in almost all measures, specifically academically, developmentally and personally.
                                    3. Students tend to choose traditionally male disciplines like the sciences
                                    4. Students develop higher levels of self-esteem than other achieving women in coed institutions.  After two years in coed institutions, women have been shown to have lower levels of self-esteem than when they entered college.
                                    5. Graduates of women’s colleges are more than twice as likely as graduates of coeducation colleges to receive doctorate degrees and to enter medical school and receive doctorates in the natural sciences.
                                    6. Have a higher percentage of majors in economics, math and life science today than men at coeducational colleges.
                                    7. Nearly half the graduates have earned advanced degrees and 81% have continued their education beyond college.
                                    8. Women’s College students are more likely to graduate.
                                    9. They are more successful in careers; that is, they tend to hold higher positions, are happier and earn more money.

                                    There are many educators who argue that the advantages of women’s colleges are hard to match in the coed world. Why? Historically, role models in coed colleges are male – a tradition that hasn’t much changed over the years. Most of the authority in coed colleges is retained by men, classrooms are dominated by men, and so are student leadership positions. It is therefore argued that these coed classrooms are still guilty of fostering an environment geared toward gendered expectation and the longer they remain in an atmosphere where such sex bias is rife, the lower women’s self-esteem seems to fall – until eventually, career aspirations also plummet.  But as mentioned time and again, it is important for the applicant to understand the sort of person she is and what her priorities are.

                                    Advocates of coed colleges argue that women who attend all women’s colleges isolate themselves from the “real world” and miss out on the intellectual and social diversity that men provide.  Their argument against women’s colleges is usually rooted in the following few premises:

                                    1. In all-women colleges, there is a distinct lack of interaction with men in the classroom, which is a skill women need in the real world and in the workplace which they will enter upon graduation.
                                    2. Closely linked to the first point, is the fact that all-women’s colleges can be an inadequate avenue for true-to-life leadership training.
                                    • Because of the absence of male students in all-women’s colleges, female students learn how to lead only co-females. There is also minimal interaction with males, making female students less knowledgeable on the behavior and thinking processes of men which will be a huge issue as they climb the corporate and social ladder.
                                    1. Some all-women’s colleges provide limited social or cultural diversity.
                                    • While this does not apply to all, some all-women’s colleges are specific to a social class or a race. This exclusivity provides female students with minimal experience in dealing with other people from different social ranks and cultures.
                                    1. Lack of networking opportunities with men, who rightly or wrongly, are often the more powerful networking partners.
                                    2. Constant interaction with women which is not to every women’s taste.
                                    3. Lack of opportunities to meet male dating partners.

                                    Should you decide that an all-women’s college is right for you, and after analyzing why you should or shouldn’t attend an all-women’s college, you should remember to do very well in accomplishing the college admission requirements for the schools of your choice. The college admission essays are particularly challenging because these colleges have a very clear mission and are very clear on the kind of student they are looking for.

                                    (ii)               All-Men Colleges and the lack of them

                                    During the 1960s and 1970s, the majority of single sex colleges went coed. This happened for several reasons. First, the Victorian sensibility that women needed to be protected from men was fading. Second, as many women joined the workforce and the Women’s Liberation Movement, people began to question whether “separate but equal” schools brought an equally high caliber education to every student.

                                    Today, aside from seminaries and rabbinical colleges, the only remaining four-year colleges for men are Wabash College in Indiana, Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, St. John’s University in Minnesota, Morehouse College in Georgia and Deep Springs College in Big Pine, California.

                                    So why have so many all women’s colleges survived? Many students, teachers, parents, and administrators still feel there is a need for these schools. In coed institutions, women need to compete with men for attention and resources, and in an unequal world, women don’t always win this competition. In addition, many young women enjoy the camaraderie and security these campuses bring.

                                    10. Academic Environment – Structured VS Free

                                    Colleges differ from each other with respect to their curricula and course requirements for each major. Some colleges and universities institute strict core curriculums, a core curriculum being a course of study which is deemed central and usually made mandatory for all students within the particular school.

                                    For example, on the engineering front, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has strict requirements for courses that engineering majors must take and allows relatively few electives.  On the humanities and liberal arts front,  perhaps the best known and most expansive core curricula amongst the leading American colleges are that of Columbia College at Columbia University, as well as the University of Chicago‘s.  Both can take up to two years to complete and are designed with the aim of fostering critical skills in a broad range of academic disciplines, spanning the whole spectrum of subjects: the social sciences, humanities, physical and biological sciences, mathematics, writing and foreign languages.

                                    On the other end of the academic spectrum, you have universities such as Brown University which have few course requirements and allow for students to take courses that are of interest to them to work towards a “focus” of their degree rather than a recognized “major.”

                                    Our Consulting Services

                                    Students International Consulting provides the following services to students:

                                    Selecting Schools

                                    We interview the student to understand the student’s educational and career goals, strengths and weaknesses, and preferences and limitations.   With this information, we compose a short list of 20 schools with a description of each school and an explanation of the school’s fit for the student.  We then conference call with the student to discuss the 20 candidate schools, and any candidate schools the student has come up with independently, and together narrow the list down to 10 schools

                                    Writing the Personal Statement

                                    Most students procrastinate on their admissions essays because they do not know how to begin answering such broad questions and essay prompts.   Students in Asian countries are particularly prone to fear because they are not accustomed to writing about themselves and are used to rote learning .

                                    We break down the daunting task of composing the essay by giving the student narrow, focused writing assignments.   Through these assignments, the student is allowed to reflect on his/her life experiences, gets comfortable writing about him/herself, and builds up a body of work that can be used in the final essay.

                                    After the student submits the writing assignments to us, we discuss the most compelling events and themes from his/her life story.  We then help the student craft these elements into a cohesive essay outline.   Finally, we proofread and the final product before the student submits the essay.

                                    Finding Scholarships and Grants

                                    We do a thorough search of national scholarships and grants databases for any financial aid available to the student.  We also do financial aid search of every school the student applies to in order to identify any unlisted scholarships or waivers the student might be eligible for.

                                    Preparing for the Student Visa Process

                                    We help the student track down all of the information and documents the student will need for the consular visa application.  After submission of the application, we then help the student prepare for the consular visa interview.

                                      If you are interested in our consulting services, please contact consulting@studentsinternational.net.