Tag Archives: study abroad

Crafting Your Ideal College List

With over 3500 colleges in the United States to choose from, it’s no surprise that many students struggle to decide which of them to apply to. This blog will provide a step-by-step guide to making this process effective and even fun! We recommend that you explore and visit colleges throughout junior year and finalize your college list in the summer before senior year.

Finding Your “Best-Fit” College Features

The most important aspect of the college admissions process is FIT. Which colleges will be the best fit for you as a unique individual? At which colleges will you be most able to grow academically, socially, and personally?

Start by thinking about your preferences. Here are some features to consider as you build your list of “best-fit” features:

  • Size. A small college (with fewer than 4000 students) tends to offer a more close-knit sense of community, with smaller, discussion-based classes, and closer relationships with professors. On the other hand, a large college (with more than 10,000 students) tends to offer more options of courses, specialized programs, clubs and organizations, and even friends. And a medium-sized college (with about 3,000 – 10,000 students) provides a blend of qualities of a small and large school.
  • Liberal Arts vs Specialized Programs. Smaller colleges tend to offer a “liberal arts” curriculum, with courses in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, such as psychology, history, and biology. On the other hand, larger universities often include specialized, pre-professional colleges within the school, and focus on areas such as business, engineering, communication, and architecture. Your academic interests and preferences for a certain size of college will help you decide which type of school is best for you.
  • Academics: Majors and Minors. What subjects interest you the most? Which classes have you most enjoyed? Research academic programs on colleges’ websites. See how many faculty members are in your areas of interest and review the departments’ courses and research opportunities. If you have a few different academic areas of interest, you will likely be able to pursue multiple subjects at college through a double-major or a major and minor. In colleges in the US, typically you can choose any combination of fields for a double-major or major/minor. For example, I have worked with students with a major in engineering and minor in studio art, a major in physics and minor in dance, and a major in Spanish and minor in biology!In addition, colleges are increasingly offering degrees in interdisciplinary areas, such as Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at University of Pennsylvania, biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis.  An academic area that has been growing at many universities is STEAM, the combination of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.
  • Distribution Requirements. In addition to the courses in your academic major, think about whether you have a strong preference for being exposed to a broad-based curriculum, or having the freedom to construct your entire course of study. Most colleges require that you take 8-10 courses (about a third of your total coursework) in a variety of academic areas in order to receive a broad-based education. Colleges range from having no distribution requirements (such as Brown University) to having a prescribed core curriculum (Columbia University). Most colleges fall in between, offering choices of courses in a variety of categories. For example, Princeton University has distribution requirements in the areas of Epistemology and Cognition, Ethical thought and Moral Values, Historical Analysis, Literature and the Arts, Social Analysis, Quantitative Reasoning, and Science and Technology.
  • Study Abroad. Most colleges offer the opportunity to study abroad for a semester or year and provide credit for coursework at other universities. Some colleges, such as New York University, have developed their own programs abroad, staffed by their own faculty. How important is it to you to study abroad? If so, research colleges’ study abroad policies to see how feasible it would be given your intended major, and find out the percent of students who typically do study abroad to determine if it is part of the school’s culture.
  • Internships. Would you like to work for an organization for a semester or more during your college years? This opportunity can be an excellent supplement to your academic coursework and expose you to potential careers. Some colleges build internships into the curriculum by requiring that you participate in one or more “co-op” semesters. Additionally, internships are more available in cities than in remote areas.
  • Extracurricular Activities. Are there clubs and organizations that are very important to you in college? These might include a cappella groups, theater, athletic clubs and intramural teams, religious organizations, or community service opportunities.
  • Location. Do you prefer a certain location in the US or beyond? Do you want to be in or near a city, or do you prefer proximity to nature? Is it important for you to be close to home?
  • Social Life. What is your preference for the social life on campus? How important is it to have strong athletic spirit or the presence of Greek life?

What is your personality like? As you reflect on these features, take into consideration your personality! Are you more extraverted or introverted? Would you prefer meeting a lot of people or spending time with a small group of close friends? Do you prefer a more structured or laid-back environment? Do you like to learn from classroom instruction or do you prefer a more hand-on approach? The more you understand yourself, the better equipped you will be to find a college that is a good fit for you.

Making the Most of Your College Visits

Now that you have identified features that are important to you, what’s next?

Research colleges to decide where to visit:

  • Research colleges online. Look up their websites, and read about their academic programs, extracurricular activities, and college culture.
  • Read college guidebooks, such as The Princeton Review and The Fiske Guide.
  • Speak with college students.
  • Attend local information sessions of colleges.

Plan to visit colleges. Now that you have identified schools that could be a good fit for you, visit their admissions websites to see if you need to register in advance for a tour and information session. Plan to eat in the dining hall so that you can speak with students and get a feel for the culture of the school. Try to arrange meetings with professors in your fields of interest; you can ask them why they chose to teach at the college and how they would describe the student body. You can also meet with staff in specialized offices, such as honors programs or learning centers.

In gathering all this information during your visits, you will begin to discover your college preferences.

Creating Your College List

Now that you have visited colleges and evaluated whether they are a good fit for you, you can develop your college list. Keep evaluating their features to make sure that your colleges suit your needs. The goal is not only to be accepted, but to succeed and thrive at your colleges!

Decide on 10-12 colleges to apply to. We recommend that you end up with 10-12 colleges on your list, with a combination of reach, target, and safe colleges.  Generally speaking, here are your admissions chances at these categories of schools:

  • Safe: more than a 75% chance of acceptance
  • Target: about a 50% chance of being admitted (your profile matches the profile of admitted students)
  • Reach: less than a 25% chance of acceptance

Assess your candidacy!  The most important factors in college admission remain the numbers:

  • Grades, especially in the core curriculum courses of English, history, foreign language, math, and science;
  • Rigor of curriculum, evaluated within the context of what’s offered at your high school;
  • Standardized testing, including the ACT or SAT, Subject Tests, AP exams, and IB grades.

Learn about your high school’s admissions history. Most schools use Naviance, a web-based software program that presents the admissions outcomes of students from your school, based on their GPA and test scores. Compare your academic profile with students from your school who have been accepted to colleges in which you are interested.

Below is a scattergram of students who applied to Emory University from Schreiber High School in Port Washington.  If your GPA and test scores place you in the top right of the scattergram, near all the green squares of accepted students, you have a strong chance of being accepted, if you meet Emory’s other criteria.  If your GPA and test scores place you in the lower left below the icons of accepted students, Emory may be a reach for you, unless you have a strong admissions “hook,” such as being a recruited athlete, legacy, under-represented minority, or first-generation student.

Boost your candidacy through your personal qualities. Although colleges place significant emphasis on your grades and test scores in their evaluation of your candidacy, qualitative factors have increased in importance over the last decade.  Colleges are interested in all the ways that you will contribute to campus life outside the classroom. To that end,  engage in extracurricular activities that genuinely interest you.  These activities can play a positive role in the following aspects of your application:

  • Essays and Interviews: you can discuss your involvement in activities in your Personal Essay, colleges’ supplemental essays, and interviews;
  • Recommendations: you can ask for letters of recommendation from people outside the academic courses, such as research mentors, coaches, clergy, supervisors of employment or internships

Balancing “Reach” With “Realistic”

Keep in mind overall admissions trends. The numbers of students attending college has been increasing and is projected to continue to increase over the next decade. More students are applying to college, and each student is applying to an increasing number of colleges. As a result, admissions rates have declined, and selectivity has increased. It has become increasingly more important to have a realistic list.

Make sure your college list is balanced. In a typical college list of 12 colleges, about 5 should be “target” schools (you have about a 50% chance of being admitted), with about 3-4 each of “safe” schools (more than a 75% chance of acceptance), and “reach” schools (less than a 25% chance of acceptance).

Tailor your list. Each individual’s college list should be suited to their academic and personal needs. If you would like a very challenging academic environment and have a strong academic profile, you could have more reach schools. If you would like a more manageable course load, or are trying to manage learning, emotional, or psychological challenges, you may want to increase the number of safe schools.

The process of deciding which colleges to visit, which to apply to, and which college to attend is complex! If you would like individualized guidance, feel free to contact us at www.collegiategateway.com. As always, we’re happy to help!

Majoring in English: How to Find the Best Fit College

The current educational climate is very focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). College majors that teach specific pre-professional skills toward a set career path are also surging in popularity. But where does that leave the liberal arts majors?

In his book, In Defense of a Liberal Education, journalist and author Fareed Zakaria argues that liberal arts majors teach people how to think, write, and communicate, and that these skills will serve them well throughout the course of an ever-changing career landscape in our current digital economy. According to Zakaria, “The future of a country like the U.S. rests on our ability to master how technology interacts with how humans live, work and play. And that depends on skills fostered by the liberal arts, such as creativity, aesthetic sensibility and social, political and psychological insight.”

By engaging and analyzing texts, and developing reading, writing, and speaking skills, majoring in English will enable you to acquire valuable critical thinking skills, and broaden the scope of your knowledge of the world around you through. Through the study of English you will be able to explore a vast array of subjects during college, and prepare for an extensive range of occupations in the years that follow.

Many English programs are seminar-based, which allows students to work closely with their professors and student peers. Yale University has a descriptive list of what students will take away from majoring in English and reasons for committing to this major. Their final reason is “Because you want to!” Most English majors are passionate about their choice of study and see its inherent value in their lifelong love of learning.

Trends

  • Interdisciplinary Studies

In recent years, English studies have become increasingly interdisciplinary as institutions encourage students to pair the major with other fields of their choice. Many universities have created additional tracks within their English programs to accommodate students to combine English with other disciplines.

At Stanford University, the Interdisciplinary Program within the English major is open to students who wish to combine the study of one literary topic, period, genre, theme or problem with an interdisciplinary program of courses relevant to that inquiry. For example, with a dual major in Psychology and English, an undergraduate can examine a psychological issue or problem through a work of creative non-fiction.

At Boston College, English majors have the opportunity to minor in African and African Diaspora studies, American Studies, Irish Studies, Linguistics, or Women’s and Gender Studies.

  • Double Major

The flexibility of the English major course requirements can also lead to the opportunity to pursue a double major in English and another field. The University of Maryland states, “Double majoring in English is uniquely suited to a number of students, because it combines the broad liberal arts training of English with specific and/or technical training.” English majors do not have to pursue a set sequence of courses and many courses carry cross-disciplinary credits within the liberal arts college.

The benefits of a double major (in which one of the majors is in the liberal arts field) are also supported a 2015 report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, which found that many companies are looking for employees who are trained in “both field-specific knowledge and a broad range of knowledge” and that this contributes to long-term career success.

Some double majors focus on two liberal arts fields, but it is becoming increasingly popular at universities such as Johns Hopkins, to combine English and the sciences. At the University of Notre Dame, about 39% of business majors carry a second major in the College of Arts & Letters or Sciences. Students should keep in mind that completing a double major requires an increase in workload and careful management of your time.

  • Study Abroad

Majoring in English can also enable you to pursue a study abroad program for a year, semester, or summer. Again, the flexibility in English course requirements and the broad array of English courses offered at institutions in England, Scotland, Australia, and Ireland allow English majors the chance to study elsewhere and gain the rich experience of living abroad.

At Cornell University, English majors are strongly encouraged to take advantage of study abroad programs offered through the Cornell Abroad Program and the College of Arts and Sciences Abroad Program. There are restrictions as to how many English credits can be earned abroad, but with careful planning, students can participate in an array of exciting international programs.

According to the UC-Berkeley Study Abroad program, “English majors find that a term, or better, a year in a foreign university not only enhances their critical and writing skills, but that the experience of adapting to another academic and cultural world expands their self-understanding and gives them a keen sense of the political and social differences in today’s world. The personal and intellectual growth of study abroad provides further advantages when it comes to the challenges of graduate and professional study.”

Common Tracks within the Major

Majoring in English gives undergraduates the opportunity to become specialists on various topics through optional tracks. Many programs have core requirements, but after these courses have been completed, the English major is open to pursue passions in literature or writing through elective courses. This format allows for interdisciplinary study across the gamet of liberal arts fields, as well as, journalism, poetry, and creative writing.

For example, Princeton University offers a multitude of tracks including Literature, Language, and Culture, Arts and Media, Theory and Criticism, and Creative Writing. Students are even able to create their own track of interdisciplinary study by special arrangement with the departmental representative.

The University of North Carolina also offers a fascinating BA in comparative literature, within which students are able to pursue an international literature track, or a global cinemas studies track. Brown University offers a renowned Nonfiction Writing Track, which combines the writing of academic essays with journalism and creative nonfiction.

At NYU, “The department offers a full and varied curriculum in literary history, critical theory, dramatic literature, theatre history, and literary culture, as well as a second major track that allows students to specialize in creative writing.”

The English major is not a “one-size-fits-all” path of study. While there are restrictions and requirements, students have choices and are able to pursue varied interests as they advance in their studies. For many students, this ability to pick and choose from a range of interesting studies is very appealing and rewarding. Regardless, of your class choices, the themes of communication, critical thinking, writing skills, and the ability to make a persuasive argument are threaded throughout all courses.

Research and Internship Opportunities

Research as an undergraduate English major is usually focused on independent, individualized studies aided by the one-on-one mentorship of faculty.

Georgetown University, houses the Folger Undergraduate Program, which offers full access to the Library’s collections as part of an intensive research seminar on books and early modern culture. There, students acquire archival research skills, and pursue advanced independent research on early modern topics.

The University of Rochester has Undergraduate Research Awards that support English majors who need assistance in travel or stay outside of Rochester to pursue the following research opportunities: traveling to scholarly conferences or film festivals, conducting research in archives or libraries, participating in writers’ institutes, and attending intensive language programs abroad. Students must apply for the award and money is granted on a competitive basis.

If you do not wish to do research during your undergraduate experience, there are innumerable internship opportunities, in which you could partake instead. English majors have written pieces for esteemed literary magazines, put their skills into practice at publishing houses, and worked for literary agencies. There are also internships in marketing, advertising, law, politics, journalism, and so many more. Many colleges have a career center that can assist students in finding the right internship fit. Stanford University has a listing of internships that are specifically geared toward English majors.

Careers

Careers commonly associated with English often include teacher, writer, and lawyer. Yet, English has allowed individuals to pursue careers in a wide range of fields.

A study conducted at Brown University illustrates the diversity of career paths that arise from being an English major. With their broad-based English backgrounds, Brown alumni were able to pursue a vast array of occupations in fields including, journalism, publishing, entertainment, public relations, law, and medicine. The University of Michigan also has a website detailing impressive career paths taken by their English major alumni.

How to Evaluate English Programs

When comparing English programs, it is helpful to research the following areas:

  • Student/teacher ratio
  • Seminar class size
  • Core requirements and elective courses
  • Opportunities for interdisciplinary study
  • Minors and concentrations, which can enhance your English major
  • Double major opportunities
  • Research and internship opportunities
  • Study abroad programs
  • Faculty profiles
  • Honors program
  • Independent study

 

For more information, contact us at Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help!