How to Pick a College: Part 3 Academic Support (College Admissions)

By Alex Martel and Ishan Puri

Academic life loses its strict structure after high school, and the classroom can only go so far. Apart from course selection and research efforts, undergraduate life can feel largely divided. At first glance, learning and socialization appear tied to buildings- libraries, dormitories, sports stadiums, science departments, and so on. College is ripe for personalization and some universities offer strong reasons to commit on a college decision.

Student organizations

Unlike high school extracurriculars, many student clubs serve as creative outlets for intellectual specializations. With hundreds of organizations finding a balance between time commitment and interest proves challenging. After all, students invent reasons to form their own student organization, sometimes for pure enjoyment.

The search for extracurricular fit is a bit different from high school endeavors but potentially more rewarding. For example, computer programming has its applications in the classroom and on the millions of electronic devices via software, apps, and so on. One way to test skills is to participate in hackathons, marathon coding sessions that target specific problems. These are great ways to test the viability of personal projects and add to your personal portfolio, important for demonstrating capabilities to anyone on the other side of the interview table. Sometimes these events connect with employers to provide networking opportunities.

Residential Programs

Some universities combine housing with experiential learning. There's been an increase in academic theme housing over the years where topics in the arts, humanities, and engineering shape the academic atmosphere of dormitories. Apart from the housing location, these programs come with perks like university credit, guest lecturers, and close interaction with professors.

Stanford's Structured Liberal Education for example is a year-long academic sequence that traces developments in Western philosophy and literature term-by-term. Students are spread across three dorm houses and attend classes in-residence led by lecturers. Every week topics range from Plato's Republic to Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. University professors are also brought in a couple times as books often match their expertise- imagine hearing analysis from leading scholars! Students then discuss in closely-knit sessions with 15-20 of their peers. Together all of this makes a compelling case for your college decision.

Academic Requirements

Beyond major requirements, universities often integrate course enrollment across departments as part of every undergraduate's career. Usually these are in the realm of foreign language, mathematics, natural sciences, and social sciences, but universities sometimes demand heavy concentration. Columbia's Core intertwines a demanding humanities curriculum as part of a necessary academic base. Universities take pride in their offerings and will play on their strengths to influence your college decision.

Stay tuned for Part 4.