204 university counselors in 33 countries took part in an IE University survey designed to pinpoint the interests and preferences of the upcoming generation of university students with regard to study abroad and most popular degree programs.
The survey shows students choose a university mainly to gain training and skills for a future job, and choose a specialization because they feel there is job market growth in that field. When asked about the main reasons for choosing a university, counselors cited:
These findings suggest there is either a lack of appropriate guidance at the high school level or students are dismissing better advice for how to choose a college or university.
With the percent of students changing majors 2, 3 or 4 times, taking 5 years to complete a 4-year degree and student retention and graduation rates dropping, students need to take a smarter approach to choosing a college or university.
The fact that students list prestige as the #1 consideration creates immediate risk for the student. By not considering newer institutions, that may actually be way ahead of their more traditional and prestigious counterparts, students are missing out on some possibly better choices. But even if your needs are best served in one of the more traditional universities, the most prestigious option may not have the best program for your area of study. Prestige alone is not a good reason to choose a college or university.
The best order of consideration and prioritizing that has been shown to produce the best choice (high satisfaction with choice, retention, graduation in expected time frame) for the student is:
- Determine career interest(s)
- Determine education requirements for the career interest(s)
- Create an education strategy (choice of majors, field of study)
- Research and identify colleges/universities or vocational learning institutions that are leading in the chosen field(s) of study (a high level of prestige for the specific subject area)
- Rank findings to create a short list of institutional choices
- Conduct on-campus visits to all short-listed choices
- Make the choice
With the cost of higher education so high, a one-semester course correction costs thousands of dollars. By following a smart strategy for decision-making, students can avoid that unnecessary added expense and be much happier with their choice. But it requires students to change the way they think about school choices.
Carl Nielson is an organizational development consultant, executive development coach, career coach and author of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and the Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads. Assessment and coaching packages start at $349 – checkout the Summer 2013 special offer.