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Why best university fit matters more than rankings

Choosing where to apply to college can be overwhelming to high school seniors, especially considering that there are over 4,000 four-year colleges/universities in the U.S. to consider. International students, particularly, struggle navigating the admissions process with limited knowledge of the US college landscape. This leads to an over dependence on rank which, while it is still a valid consideration when choosing a university, is not the main criteria that students should depend on to make their decision.

Ranks vs. interests

Much of the criteria used in determining ranks are more about academic status and less about overall belonging. The research regarding the rankings of a university is conducted at the graduate level and by professors which occasionally make the content subjective and is often not looked at from the perspective of an incoming undergraduate student. At EF Academy New York, we also take into consideration a student’s specific program of study or interests, relationships with peers and professors, experiences and opportunities on a given college campus, among rankings.

As such, teaching students to reflect on their future, their needs and their preferences in addition to their academic records and resume is one way the University Advising team at EF Academy New York guides students to determine their best college fit. If a student reflects on what college is the best fit, they will find the application process and its outcomes to be much more successful.

Determining the right university fit

So, what is fit? Fit incorporates many elements, starting with what a university offers in academic programming (majors/minors/opportunities), flexibility to change your program, if necessary, financial affordability, location, size of school, class size, and more that match a student’s needs. The other side of fit is determining a student’s admissibility at a given college. In other words, will the student be accepted? Curriculum choice, 9-12th grade course grades, test scores, community engagement, extra-curricular pursuits, service to others, leadership, and traits such as curiosity, creativity and “grit” are just a few of the elements a university uses to determine fit and admissibility.

What we do to help

At EF Academy, Pathway Managers meet with students to help guide them in choosing course work that fits their interests and abilities, as well as assuring that they will graduate with the proper credits for a diploma. They also encourage students to become involved on campus by participating in clubs and activities. Students even have an opportunity to meet with one of their clubs during the school day as part of their schedule. The University Advising (UA) team presents annually to the 9th and 10th graders at a class meeting, as well as offering individual meetings at a student’s request. With underclassmen, the UA team teaches students to understand the U.S. education system, testing requirements across countries, and shares tips for making the most of 9th- 11th grade to assure competitiveness in their college applications the senior year.

UA also continues to encourage personal growth and active engagement in the classroom, as well as on campus. In the spring of the junior year, University Advisers meet individually with juniors to discuss and reflect on each student’s ideas and plans. Each junior is given a list of universities to research and consider. This list continues to be modified and fine-tuned as the student deeply researches to develop context that will help them arrive at colleges that really fit. For seniors, our goal is to know why they are applying to a university, considering what is important to them as individuals, and consequentially, would be thrilled to attend any college on their list.

Using fit as the goal rather than ranking assures that a student has fully and thoughtfully engaged in their unique college admissions process. This awareness and ownership are necessary for a positive and successful college admissions experience.

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