The elite college for you is one where you can succeed

September 10, 2014
There are about 4,000 colleges in the U.S.

There are more than 4,000 colleges in the U.S.

Peter Pak is the education editor at The Korea Times Los Angeles.

There are elite universities in America, and reports come out every year that, on average, graduates of these universities make higher salaries to support their reputation.

Admissions are tough and the quality of education high and society’s perception of them even higher.

But is any elite university, regardless of which one, a good choice for your children?

That’s an entirely different issue, as for students, the one that can make their dreams come true is the right college.

A college at which students can balance study and an enjoyable campus life for four years, and afterward find a job they want is an elite college for them. That college could be Harvard, a University of California school or even a California State University school.

Regardless of what others say, as long as students can enjoy their college and realize their dreams there, that college is an elite college for them.

There are more than 4,000 colleges in the United States. The average college-bound senior applies to about 10 schools and, after receiving acceptance letters, narrows choices down to two or three.

Choosing a college is as important as choosing a major. It can affect the rest of a student’s life.

Choose a school strategically

Don’t insist on only the elite schools. If an elite school offers a generous scholarship, there should be no hesitation, but that is a rare case. Realistically, choosing a public or state university — even some private institutions offer good scholarships — could turn out to be a wiser choice.

To increase chances of receiving a scholarship, gather information early on to set goals on grades, community service and extracurricular activities.

Each school has a specialty major. A student who was accepted into the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles, but who opted to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo had no problem finding a job in architecture after graduation. Not only did she save on costs, by taking advantage of the programs at the school, she was able to take on part-time jobs within campus to add valuable experience to her resume.

After the recession, students’ and parents’ views have shifted. Instead of focusing on just graduating from elite schools, they are now looking more at what kinds of jobs they can find after graduation.

“By choosing a college that has a good program for a job you want after college, you can save on time and cost,” said Jina Kim, senior director of Admission Masters, a college consulting company.

Some students have found it necessary to take on an additional year of certification classes at CSU schools after unsuccessful job searches after graduation.

Find a school where you enter on top

In college, graduation is more important than admission. At large state universities, many students drop out of school after the first one or two years.

After entering college, students need to study for four years in a competitive environment. Students who lack strong foundation naturally fall behind.

For that reason, schools like UC Berkeley and UCLA accept increasingly more transfer students entering their junior years. Before you go celebrate having been accepted into an Ivy League school, it might be necessary to think about whether you can successfully graduate.

One student who entered a six-year pharmacy program at a private elite school had to drop out due to competition. With a lowered standard for a school, the student might have graduated with decent grades.

It can be difficult to lower your standards. Therefore, it’s important for parents, counselors and students to work together to make the wisest decision.

Prepare for your desired school

If you have a set goal, you are less likely to waver. And you are more likely to investigate more to achieve that goal.

For example, if you set a goal to make it into CalTech, you would take more science and engineering courses and focus more on that field of study, including related extracurricular activities.

If you decide you want to go to the University of Pennsylvania, you would do the same with business and finance.

If you’re having difficulty pinpointing a specific college and have diverse interests, you may want to consider a liberal arts college.

It’s also best for college-bound students to decide on what they want as early as they can.

At the minimum, you should come up with a master plan for college admissions by the time you enter freshman year of high school. Afterward, narrow down your choices and draw out the pros and cons of those schools.

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