The first thing you should know is that you shouldn’t have just one Dream College. It just doesn’t work that way. You have to be flexible. You can’t put all of your eggs in one basket. So try to find colleges that match your expectations. Of course, one college might satisfy your expectations more than any other, but you should also keep tabs on other schools, just in case. Especially during the regular application season, it’s of paramount importance to have a list of dream colleges rather than being fixated on just one.
Now that we have covered that we need to have multiple dream colleges, now let’s see what criteria we should use in picking these colleges.
1. Financial Aid: Depending on your financial status, this might actually be the most important criteria of all. College expenses are expensive going sometimes as high as 80,000. As such, it’s a no-brainer that this criteria matters. Don’t take it at face value when colleges say they give financial aid in their emails. Colleges and universities don’t often speak openly about financial aid policies. This is a touchy subject for them. You need to find out whether they give financial aid for international students or not. Specifically, you need to find out whether the colleges provide students with need-based financial aid for international students or not, which you can find on Google. Unless you have a gold mine somewhere, it’s best to pursue colleges that have need-based financial aid for international students.
2. Apply to your Ethiopians’ Alma Mater(s): this is something some people fail to realize. Whenever colleges send you information about themselves talking about how many international students they accept or have, you should take that with a grain of salt. This statistics on international acceptance doesn’t fully shed light on the case with Ethiopians. While making your list of dream colleges, you should think about whether Ethiopians have been able to go to that school, and if possible, how many? I’m not saying that you have no chance of getting into colleges that Ethiopians haven’t gotten into. All I’m saying is that the math is definitely not on your side. So, if possible, try to get a sense of how many Ethiopians go into that college, and use this as one criteria to make your choice
3. Major Interest: although colleges more or less are good at all of the majors they provide, one college could have the best software engineering program or the best business program in the country. As such, this is also something you can factor into your choice. Also, you should be able to truly understand the education policy of each colleges because they might have something different to what you expected. For example when it says Columbia University has a core curriculum, you should be able to know what that actually entails.
4. Setting: You should also know that you aren’t only going to learn at that college, but you are also going to live there. Therefore, you should think about whether you would like to live in a city or a suburb.
5. Be Realistic: This is the criteria I hate to point out, but it’s still important. SAT Scores and transcripts don’t tell the whole story, but you should try to see the score bracket of that school and your score and make serious decisions based on that. It’s good to be optimistic but you also gotta be realistic at the same time. I’m not saying scores are the be all end all of the application, but they do matter.