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Upasana Gupta -

A Student's Journey into Selecting the Right College

Tips on major, college search and how to make the right college choice

Sucheta Bose, a freshman in New York  University Stern's School of Business is still transitioning into what people call a normal college life. Her days are all so new in college, but one thing which makes her feel good is the fact that she picked the right school for herself.

"I don't have everything set and my life is all so different, but I am so happy I picked NYU," Bose proudly says.

Bose's journey into college was not an easy one and took several years of preparation and hard work. From 9th grade, she deligently followed the mantra,"Don't procastinate; do everything on time." Here she has shared with me a vivid brief on how she prepared for getting into college, issues she found challenging and factors that helped her succeed.

Selecting College Major

All along middle and high school, Bose was interested in math and science. So by 10th grade, she took electives within math and science like biology, accounting to figure out what she wanted to pursue and do in life. By 11th grade, she was sure she wanted to take up a career in business, finance and economics. Her career goal: to become an investment banker.

"I was also confused like many others, but I networked and talked to people everytime there was a family dinner or party," Bose says. "I reached out to seniors (11th and 12th graders) to understand how they had made their college decision."

(Suggested Read: Does College Major Matter?; Top 5 Criteria to Select a College)

College Search

By 11th grade, Bose was searching for business schools and preparing her college list based on the following factors she considered important.

  • School Location: Bose wanted to live close to her parents in New Jersey and did not want to go too far. So she narrowed business schools on the East Coast.
  • School Campus: She always wanted to study in a traditional, closed college campus.
  • Job Opportunities: Bose preferred colleges located in big cities because of better job  prospects and opportunities within the financial field.
  • Name Recognition: She short-listed colleges based on their ranking and name recognition within the financial services community.

By the end of 11th grade, she had short-listed 8 colleges. During the same period, she was also busy taking up Advanced Placement  (AP) courses and preparing heavily for college entrance tests like SAT. She appeared twice for SAT in her 11th grade, but wanted to fare better in her test scores. So she decided to take up the SAT exam in the beginning of her 12th grade. She found that focused study for SAT during the summer helped her ace the test.

Note: (Students can appear for the SAT exam 3 times. Colleges tyically take the highest SAT score into consideration.)

Selecting the Right College

Bose applied to all 8 short-listed colleges in 12th grade. 5 out of 8 colleges accepted her. She finally narrowed the list to three colleges: NYU Stern, Boston College and Villanova University.

The main challenge for her was to select between these three colleges- weigh factors, review application/ financial details and come up with a winner. "I continued debating which college to go to, until the time came to pay the initial deposit," Bose says.

The reason Bose swayed toward NYU was because the location offered her a close proximity to network with major businesses and banks headquartered there. "I could see my future in NYU," she says.

Tips for Students

Based on first hand experience, Bose provides few tips for students who are or will be looking for colleges soon-

Don't try to do too many things at once: if you have AP's or other things on your plate. Take sometime off to just focus on your college entrance exam because it matters how you perform on the test. All colleges look at your SAT or ACT scores as a main criteria for admission.

Focus on how the college can benefit from you: if you are applying to relatively good schools chances are high that everyone is smart. So Bose says that it's significant for students to focus on their extracurricular commitments, athletic skills, community service, leadership aptitude and other aspects that makes them a desirable and diverse applicant.

Don't take others word for it: do your own research on colleges, take virtual tours, engage in social media and make it a point to visit select college campuses personally. "Only when you are there physically, you learn about the community, the kind of people around you, and how people treat you," Bose says. "It's important to know where and how you will be living for the next four years."

Some may think its early for Bose to indicate Stern as the right school considering she's been in college only a month. But at times, people know this is the right place for them from the very beginning and that's what happened here.

"By December my responses to few questions maybe slightly different, but not in terms of having picked the right college," Bose confirms. "On a daily basis, I see executives from JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse engaging with students on our campus and I know I belong here."