Choosing which schools to apply to can seem like a daunting task. There are multiple factors to consider: Are their grades and test scores good enough? How well-respected are the programs they want to get into? Will they be better suited for a larger or smaller school?
In addition, most students are not completely sure about their career path before they graduate from high school, but this is not a bad thing. In fact, if a student has multiple things they are interested in, this can actually help narrow down their choices.
Here are some of the things that Occam Education helps students and families examine when narrowing down your choices:
- Grades. Grades are arguably the most important part of a student’s application. These should carry the most weight when deciding which schools to recommend. However, simply looking at the marks is not enough. We need to pay close attention to the reasons why a student’s grades may be lower. These reasons are almost never as simple as laziness, and it is not helpful to judge a student this way. Our staff is dedicated to keeping up on the latest research so that we are equipped to work with anyone’s personality and learning style.
- Test scores and potential for improvement. It is not necessarily true that lower than average test scores will kill a student’s chance for admission. Further, if a student shows marked improvement in their test scores over the course of a couple of years, it could be a good sign that they will succeed if accepted to a university whose student body has a slightly higher score average overall than they do.For instance, A student taking a test multiple times and showing little improvement should probably not be steered toward larger research schools like the University of Florida, but depending on what their range is, more selective but smaller schools like Brown could still be a viable option for them.
- Readiness for life after high school. A student’s family can be very helpful in determining how ready a student is to pursue a full-time education at a four-year university, or further, at a large or small university. Smaller and private universities, for instance, could be good options for students who require more structure, whereas more adventurous students might succeed more at a large institution.Taking a gap year or starting at a two-year college is also an excellent option for some students who need time to adjust to being away from home. For example, Highline Community College in Des Moines, Washington, boasts a high percentage of students who have transferred to very prestigious schools. Many of them have also gone on to rigorous professional degree programs like Columbia Law.
- Chosen major. It is a good idea to help them truly understand a student’s top two career choices and discuss exactly what it will take to fulfill their goals in either situation before they apply to schools. Ideally, their chosen school will have excellent programs in two or three fields they are interested in. This way, they can choose to change majors or combine them with little stress. Alternatively, if a student is indecisive about what they want to study, finding a school that has undergraduates apply to majors late into their first or early into their second year, rather than declaring upon arrival, as the University of Washington and UPenn do) might be a factor to consider.
- A school’s commitment to innovation. “Name schools” like Stanford, Harvard, and MIT have great reputations. Indeed, graduating from one of these very often opens doors for people on name alone. But with how quickly technologies and businesses are changing, we try to consider both a school’s reputation and how innovative they are. Recognizing the speed at which things are changing and the necessity for said change is not an afterthought in the way we approach these decisions.
There are many ways to approach higher education, and none of them are necessarily better or worse than others. The only wrong choice is waiting until the last minute to seriously consider your options. Students should not feel pressure to decide during their first year of high school when they should be focusing on success in their current endeavors. We will help ease them into the process and show them several options.