When guiding students on selecting a college or university what factors do you look at when matching them to the right school?
Kafitz: Building a college list with students is my favourite part of this job. When we build a college list, we focus on finding the right fit for each individual student. There are a lot of factors that are at play here. Firstly, academic fit. Do the student’s grades, curriculum and test scores fall within the chosen college’s range? Does the student learn best in smaller discussion-based classrooms or do they prefer to learn in large lectures? What do they want to study? Does this college offer the right course? Secondly, location. Does the student want to stay in the US for college or do they want to go abroad? Then we find out does the student prefer to be in a smaller setting or an urban environment? We ask what kind of social environment suits them and what sports are important, as well as the college fees and if we need to consider colleges with a lower price tag or colleges that offer generous merit aid or scholarships?
Having worked in college admissions and college counselling for more than 12 years, I think it helps to visit as many college campuses as possible. While one college may be perfect on paper, it might not feel right when they visit the campus in person.
Lahnston: In the beginning students, especially international students, come to us saying 'I'm going to a top 50 school', not really understanding why. As they spend time at WPS they meet more than 150 representatives from different universities that come to the school. They listen to them speak, or they go and visit colleges. The following year they may say they would like to look at Harvard, and Boston University because of a certain course.
The third year they might say: ‘I found this school called Emerson. It’s in downtown Boston and I'll apply to Harvard and I'll apply to Boston University, but I'm really excited about this small school, and it's in line with what I want to study’. The more time they spend with us the more they transform, and they start to understand what ranking is, what does that means to them and their goals and interests. They think about what these schools are really doing for them as far as internships, job placements and other opportunities.
Do you think or believe elite schools are the best option or the best fit for students? Do other factors need to be considered when choosing the right school for a student?
Kafitz: Often families are unaware of the methodology behind college rankings. One of my go-to college ranking guides is US News and World Report. They rank colleges by factoring in things such as graduation rate, retention rate, social mobility, i.e. how many low-income students were accepted and given Pell grants, class size, faculty compensation, the percentage of faculty who work full-time, student-to-faculty ratio, peer assessment survey and many other factors. Interestingly, this year the acceptance rate of the college was not even a factor. I like to use rankings as a jumping-off point in helping students find the right university or college.
Nancy Gerena: I spend a lot of time working with college representatives. My main job at the school is to be the liaison between universities and our school. It's absolutely wonderful if a student ends up at an Ivy League school but do we know if that school's the right fit for them. Students need to understand why they're going to that school. What's the reason for it? It cannot be the name. It has to be because of the programme, or the opportunities available to them there.
Also, because these are highly selective schools, you have to be more than just intelligent and a good tester. It is about what are you actively doing in high school, and how is that going to continue in their institution? That is an important factor that students must understand when choosing an elite or selective school.