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Old 11-22-2007, 11:24 AM   #1
Michelle
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Default US College and University - How to choose

There are thousands of colleges and universities in the US. So which one suits you? Most people would have the following criteria in their selection:

1) Reputable, recognised and "top" school
2) Offers the course/program that I want
3) Course fees
4) Living expenses
5) Quality of life

Rankings
There are generally a few major rankings that are popular and closely-watched each year - The US News & World Report, The Princeton Review and the Business Week Rankings (for Business Schools, also known as B-Schools). Each rankings differs in its methodologies and has its own pros and cons. It's hard to say which one is better. And as for any rankings, take them with a dose of pragmatism and don't get too hung up on a school's exact rankings. It's not quite a science as you need to consider your personal situation.

Personal observation : Americans generally do not pay too much attention to world rankings of colleges. They tend to focus on American rankings. Actually, after spending 7 years there, I dare say the average American don't quite care about the rest of the world. In the company where I worked, we term any plant locations outside of the US as "geos" (short for other geographies).

Which schools to apply to?
We would all love, if given a chance, to study in an Ivy League college. But the reality is such that constraints such as costs, grades and acceptance by the college exists. Acceptance into the top universities in the US are highly contested among the Americans. Places for international students are limited. And you need to bear in mind that Singaporeans are but one of the groups of international students jostling for very limited places. (The MBA program I went through only accepts 1 Singaporean a year.)

So when you decide which university to apply for, consider these 3 very pragmatic factors:

- which college offers the courses you want to study
- which college you have a chance of getting accepted
- how much in total cost you can afford

BTW, you can't just apply for 50 schools because each application costs money (US$50-300). And do you really want to write 50 application essays?

How to Chose?
Narrow down the schools that offer the course you want by trawling through the rankings (you can find rankings by course of study). Have a short list of about 30 schools. Usually, you can take the top 30 schools unless you have specific criteria like which states you want to be in.

Visit the website of the schools and gather information like course fees, book fees and living expenses in that town/city.

Narrow down further your list based on what you can afford to pay (discuss with your parents if they will be supporting you). You should have a list of about 10 schools. Note that generally private schools are a lot more expensive than public/state schools.

Forming the list - Look at your list of ten and pick out 2 that are your "dream" schools, 3 that you feel you have a good chance of being accepted and 2 that you know you should be able to get in. You can get a clue about your chances by looking at your SAT score against the school's average SAT, the schools' acceptance rate (if it's 10%, then you know your chances are slim) and it's % of international students.

Once you have your final list, put in your best effort in the application and essays. You may be called for an interview or be asked to meet with an alumni that is in Singapore. So it makes sense to prepare yourself. If given a chance to interview, dress appropriately and demonstrate your purpose clearly. Good luck!

-Michelle
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Old 12-11-2007, 08:44 PM   #2
Dudboi
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This is actually pretty bad advice.

Unfortunately, it's also a very Singaporean thing to do. Don't fall into the trap of going to a name school because it may not be for you.

There are 4000 over schools in the US, and granted that Singaporeans are of a certain academic standard, there are still a whole bunch to choose from.

Ultimately, your decision should be based on whether the school fits you. In terms of size, location, student body/faculty, type of education, courses etc. There are too many factors to a school to make any ranking mean much (and the fact that a lot of them are profit-driven).

There's no time too early to start researching into schools, and you should look into sites like studentsreview.com (and dare I say) collegeconfidential.com for info about schools and campus life.

Find the school that's for YOU. We all know that US schools like to look for students who are different, so if you really are as different as you will eventually claim that you are, you should look for a school that caters to you and your needs, and not because it's higher on some list.

While the prestige of a school can help you find a job, if you had gone to a school that may not have been so famous, but has an equally good faculty and coursework, then you would gain the relevant skills, and be able to land a job just as good or even better, all without having to pay the 300K.

If you end up picking based on Ranking, then you might as well study at NUS. After all, it is 20th (or whatever) in the world isn't it?
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Old 01-09-2008, 01:52 AM   #3
koo86
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Actually, the NUS ranking 20th is kinda inaccurate, a lot of other rankings don't even reflect NUS in the top tier. But back to the topic of US colleges, I agree that one mustn't choose a school base on rankings, but one should not ignore the fact that the rankings are there for a purpose, if you were to pick between a Dartmouth grad and a Washington grad, you would certainly favour the Dartmouth grad over the Washington grad for a job interview. I think one should compare the school's rankings according to their forte; Colleges famous for their business schools one side, schools famous for their art program another.
Last but not to say, I don't think the cost is a problem when it comes to ivy league schools, Harvard subsidies the schools fees of students that have difficulty paying them

Last edited by koo86; 07-06-2009 at 01:38 PM.
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Old 01-09-2008, 11:53 AM   #4
dershing
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Default Yes Rankings Matter

just to weigh in my personal opinion. Brand name of university matters a lot. It is not everything and I agree with previous posts about fit and suitability. But after working for many years and seeing many friends and their careers, trust me, BRAND MATTERS.

If you attended Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Ivy Leagues you are always one grade higher (perception wise) than other normal good universities (including NUS) until you prove otherwise in your career down the road. So why put on the onus of having to prove otherwise ? Just get an instant recognition and headstart. Of course, you must have the capability to do well in those settings. Its the same for Oxford or Cambridge. Why you think so many of our high fliers go there and those who do not, will make sure they go there for their MBA or Masters?

So if i am advising , i would say, do a self assessment to see what career fits best, what is your interests, values etc. Then research each university on what it offers. Environment, costs, courses, faculty, people, location, cultural experience etc.

Then select the best (based on brand and rankings) and apply. I know there will be sure lots of disagreement, feel free to write back!
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Old 01-10-2008, 07:15 AM   #5
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Definitely the brand matters. But it also depends on what field/where you intend to work. If you're doing something specific like engineering or business, I think Wharton and Harvard Business grads may be better percieved then even yale/princeton biz grads purely because those biz schools are more recognized.

That said, if you're going to work in Singapore, there are some employers who have only heard of the big 3 (HYP), so schools like Brown, Dartmouth and even Columbia may not necessarily give you an edge despite their ivy status.

dershing: I hear this alot, but I personally don't agree. Apart from the fact that I have no idea what I want to do with my life, if you get schools within the same tier, the education will pretty much be the same. In fact, there are schools which may rank lower, but may have better academics. That's why I based my own decision on how the school will fit me, and not what it will do for my career.
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Old 01-10-2008, 08:45 AM   #6
koo86
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hmm just my two cents worth, if i were to graduate from a ivy league school, my first job would probably be in the states, since most students in these schools get to work and study at the same time. Most of the students are head-hunted by companies even before they graduate so working in singapore would probably the last thing on my mind.
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Old 01-10-2008, 10:30 AM   #7
dershing
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Default Definition of what is best

Yah agree with Dudboi. I think the issue here is that there are different ideas of what it means to be a best choice. Actually, there is no best choice, just what is best for each person.

So when I write about brand and stuff, I am basing on the premise that the person places a great importance on his career development and that it is of utmost importance. Of course if someone were to join a top brand school and is not happy due to people or content or environment, then naturally no point.

But purely from a career success point of view, i think the numbers show that brand does matter a lot.

Yah khoo is right about many graduates in USA schools staying to work there. In my year, almost all except scholars stayed to find a job. But that was back in roaring 1998-1999s. Interestingly though, quite a good number have come back asia or singapore to work as not all managed to climb up a lot. You do have a local advantage when it is your own culture.
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Old 01-11-2008, 05:25 PM   #8
Michelle
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When I set out to write my little cheatsheet of how to apply for an US school, I had a pretty simple objective - to give a pragmatic step by step method using common sense as the base. The key word being "pragmatic"

Of course, I agree that you dont just chose a school based on rankings but as dershing said, if given between a choice of wharton b-school and say arizona state, i'll take wharton (all things being equal). So my assumption is that you would already take into consideration things like what courses you want, what kind of school environment you want etc.

Thus, i thought to call what i wrote "bad advice" was a little harsh.

As for whether brand matters, my 2 cents is it definitely does. Until you have proven yourself career wise, then of course, nobody really cares. This is from the point of view of someone who worked in the US for 6 years and is currently in the midst of trying to hire 2 people in this crazy Singapore labour market, I do pay attention to brand of university. In the US, I worked in IBM in San Jose in the marketing/strategy team, my colleagues were exclusively Stanford, Cornell and MIT. And then you have me, from Indiana U. I remember my manager telling me "Indiana is a reputable MBA too." She was trying to console me. The company's management are Harvard, MIT and some Stanford. It's no secret these school's alumni networks are very powerful. Of course, not every one is from those schools but it does show that where you are educated does play a part in career opportunities.

Last, all you have to do is look at data on starting salaries of grads from various universities to know there is a very wide variation of valuation of such grads. Bearing in mind, we are talking about AVERAGES and not outlying points. As such, there will always be arguments either way or examples proving either extremes. But anyway, opposing opinions are good!
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Old 01-11-2008, 05:33 PM   #9
Michelle
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KOO86:

Actually, you are not allowed to work while studying in the US. Your F1 visa only allow you to work on campus and even that is limited to certain number of hours. You can, however, do internships. So I would advise doing that. Many students secure permanent jobs from their internships. In addition, upon graduating, you can apply for a 1 year practical training visa which will allow you to join any company. If you want to work beyond 1 year you will need to get a company to sponsor you for the H1b visa.

As for being recruited before graduation, that is absolutely true. Many companies actively travel to the schools to recruit, often during the last semester. And yes, many Singaporean students do try to work in the US after graduating (pay better, like the lifestyle there). We used to have a whole bunch of us in the SF Bay Area.
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Old 01-12-2008, 09:17 AM   #10
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Michelle, I'm sorry if that was too harsh, I was just trying to say it like it is.

I mean, it's probably not bad advice, but what I was trying to get at is that it paints an unnecessarily easy picture of how school-choosing will be. Most of the kids who may find their way here probably have no idea where to begin, and to start them off thinking that rankings are the holy grail would prevent them from knowing all the other wonderful schools out there.

And I believe there seems to be some idea that there's a correlation between ranking and prestige. I'm sure schools like NYU and SUNY Buffalo are more well known (even if only in NY) than other schools which are higher ranking than they are.

Sure, everyone knows HYPSM, but for the most part, shouldn't who you are and what you bring to the table be more important than which bunch of old buildings you went to?
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