What you manage to retain and learn in your college will most likely shape your future and be the foundation of your career. In recent years, finding the right match for college education has become worse than getting married. Too few quality institutions, too many students and tuition fees in a ever increasing infaltionary spiral. Focusing on the right priorities and finding the right college to match your needs and talents becomes difficult when you have to consider things like whether your parents can afford to shell out the big bucks and even then, whether the college will take you or not. What’s to be done?
First of all, let’s introduce some clarity to the process. The most important thing is to decide what field, or career, you are interested in, regardless of the other factors. Once you’re fairly certain about this, collect a list of educational institutions which are well known for providing quality in your chosen sector. Try to drill it down to as specific a level as possible. For example, if you want to be a Wall Street fund manager (just an example…), Warren Buffett’s investment philosophy comes to mind. Now, Warren Buffett is a value investor. Today, value investing is best taught by the Columbia Business School, which has a very rich history and tardition of producing the best value investors who have literally taken over Wall Street. So, your first choice, if you want to become an investment banker, would be the Columbia Business School. Continue this line of thinking and short-list all such institutions which are qualified.
Next comes the issue of which one, or ones, of these are willing to accept you. Go through their admission procedures and note down their requirements. Create a second short-list of the colleges where you can, in theory, get in.
Now comes the not-unimportant issue of financing your education. Options? First is whether the college is willing to provide financial aid, and whether or not you qualify for the aid. Harvard, for example, just modified their financial aid program, and now all students from middle-class families with annual incomes ranging from $120,000 to $180,000 will only have to pay a maximum of 10% of annual income as total yearly expense at Harvard, which includes tuition, boarding and lodging. That comes to about a maximum of $18,000, out of a total fee of about $45,600. Can your parents shell out the balance? If so, keep Harvard on the list. Work out similar calculations for each college on your list.
Now my job basically consists of interviewing current college students and admission officers at colleges to find out the real deal about each college and course. This gives you great insight in to the actual life and quality of education at each place. So, I would also suggest that you visit each of the colleges in your final short-list personally and talk to people there – Faculty, admissions officers, students, and anyone else you can find.
From my experience, I can assure you that if you follow the process I oulined above, you’ll end up with at most 4-5 colleges. But these will be just about perfect for you, and you for them. In short, a match made in heaven.