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How to Choose the Right College

Columnist Frank Bruni Advises Students to Look Beyond Safe Choices

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How to Choose the Right College
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In a recent New York Times editorial, columnist Frank Bruni has an interesting take on what has become the arduous college application process. Instead of focusing on what most students do—which includes the name-brand recognition or the safety of a certain college well known to students because it’s their parents’ alma mater—Bruni advises students to instead seek out the kinds of experiences that will help mold them into successful and courageous adults able to thrive in a global marketplace.

Bruni advises students to look for a college that has a large number of international students. A recent U.S. News ranking reveals that the New School in New York City and Lynn University in Florida are well ahead of schools such as Harvard and Brown in the percentage of foreign students they educate. Bruni suggests that attending a college with foreign students can help American students become more familiar with foreign cultures and will help them to navigate an increasingly global marketplace.

Bruni also advises students to check out the U.S. News and World Report ranking of universities that send a large percentage of their students abroad. Again, this list may surprise college applicants—for example, Goucher College in Maryland tops the list with 100% of its students going abroad. And Bruni also suggests digging deeper into the rankings to figure out whether the travel abroad programs involve a true immersion into foreign cultures and languages or whether the majority of the students are going to places such as the United Kingdom (which is still the top destination for American students, Bruni reports), which, while interesting, does not expose students to another culture.

Bruni urges students to stretch themselves into other ways, too—for example, by attending schools that offer a true sense of diversity, not only racial or cultural, but also geographic and financial. He suggests students from rural areas expose themselves to life in the city and that students who are from the North attend school in the South, if they are able to. Bruni’s suggestions are wise and in keeping with the need for a future workforce that appreciates and cultivates diversity and that can work with people from other cultures.

How to Choose the Right College

As Bruni suggests, choosing a college that is a good match for a student and that will really stretch him or her requires college applicants and their families to dig beneath the surface and the simple statistics. Like choosing the right private school, choosing the right college involves visiting the college, if possible (or taking a virtual tour), and asking questions about what life in the school is really like, beyond the fancy gym facilities and the ice cream bar in the dining room. For example, applicants should, if they can, speak to current students, visit classes, and stay overnight in the dorms to assess the temperature and mood of the campus. Applicants can also use social media sites to find out what schools are really like—including the negative aspects of that school. They should also ask students if the professors are available for help, if students really take advantage of study abroad and other activities, and if their area of intended study is strong and open to students. Countless students, for example, attend a certain college with the hope of majoring in business, only to find that the major is only open to a certain number of students who achieve a certain grade point average. It's important to do some thorough research before choosing a college--rather than relying on a seemingly safe choice that may or may not be right for you.

More tips on choosing the right college.

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