University Applications and Admissions: How To Choose A University
It is one of the most important choices young adults and students have to make, and is often a source of concern for those who do not yet have a clear idea of their professional and personal future. For this reason, it is never too early for high school students to start thinking about the great mystery called the university : which major to choose? Which university to apply to?
The topic is complex, and should not be approached lightly, even by those who already have a clear idea of what they want to do. In this short guide, I will offer you a number of useful steps to try to clarify your learning situation, your inclinations, and all the variables that make choosing a university to study difficult, but not impossible.
The first steps
Find out if a university is right for you
Are you sure you want to go to university? This is not a rhetorical question. On the contrary, it should be approached with a mind free from one’s own or others’ prejudices. Undoubtedly, an advanced degree increases the level of education and is necessary to gain access to certain professions: in Italy, the number of graduates is much lower than in other European countries, which negatively affects the employment sector in general and individual career opportunities.
However, it is important to remember that some professions do not require an advanced degree . In particular, I am talking about those professions where entry into the world of work occurs as early as possible in order to master the skills necessary to work in the specialty. In addition, there are vocational schools and special courses that more effectively allow you to quickly acquire the skills needed to start a specific job.
Imagine your future
The first question to ask yourself is not what university you want to go to, but what kind of work you would like to do and what kind of future you envision for yourself – both professional and personal – after graduating from high school.
Consider all the variables : do you want to stay in the city where you live or move? Will your career be a priority or do you want to start a family? It seems absurd to think about these variables when you are not yet of age, but starting to think about your future with the right awareness will help you to get rid of some mental schemas that can distort your perception of the “university problem.”
Assessment of predispositions and interests
Once you’ve decided on the future that you envision, it’s time to consider your abilities and interests. This is the simplest step that you can get specific support from the school and teachers : those who have followed your curriculum for several years know your ability and can advise you on what subjects to focus on. Science or Humanities? In which sector? It is difficult to imagine, for example, earning a degree in pharmaceuticals if you are not good at chemistry: consider what you are good at as a student, but do not rule out anything for now.
A more overlooked aspect is personal inclinations and interests. If you have a hobby or hobby that you have cultivated for a long time, consider whether you can turn it into a profession or help you in a specific area. Beware , though: turning a hobby into a profession is often not only difficult, but can also be harmful: doing something of your own accord is quite different than doing it as a job, with obligations and deadlines!
Think back to your high school career
School performance is a “double-edged sword”: on the one hand, it provides fairly objective data on the student’s abilities, on the other, it is a snapshot of such a transitional moment as adolescence: during their studies at the university, people grow up a lot, and some are not very disciplined students become organized and accurate (and vice versa).
If you deal well with the stress of exams and tests , you have a reasonably stable GPA, and you handle heavy workloads well, you may want to consider going to a very competitive university . If you find it difficult to maintain consistent academic performance or deal with high stress and highs and lows, a university course that requires a lot of CFUs, highly selective entrance examinations, and multiple exams each session may not be for you.
A very honest question to ask yourself: How much would you want to study while sacrificing your free time after completing compulsory schooling?
Don’t forget your marital status
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The choice of university should be individual, but the family plays an important role in the final decision, both positive and negative. The first element to take into account is the economic situation of the family : does it allow you to attend the university of your dreams, perhaps outside the country? A second element that should not be overlooked is parental demands : sometimes a mother or father wants their children to follow their own career path or to choose a “safe” university, contrary to their child’s wishes.
If you have one or both of these difficulties, don’t give up on your aspirations : plan your journey ahead of time, learn about scholarships and other financial benefits, save as much as possible, and consider a summer job to save up for tuition and other expenses. A serious and pragmatic attitude, aimed at making your dreams come true, not just in words, is sometimes enough to convince the most skeptical parents.
Inform yourself about the specifics of the profession
Once you have a clearer idea of what kind of work you would like to do, start figuring out what a particular profession entails , what opportunities exist in the labor market, and what skills are required.
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Always remember that the university will not give you all the theoretical and practical knowledge you need for your dream job, but rather some kind of theoretical and practical base that will make your knowledge more and more specialized in a particular field. The world of work is constantly evolving, and the requirements for it are constantly changing. Keeping up with the times means choosing the best university, of course, but also evaluating additional courses, internships and optional exams that are more suitable for the best preparation.
Try to connect with people who are already doing the job, either through your own connections or through social media (LinkedIn in particular). Seek advice about your training directly from those with hands-on experience .
Attending open house days
Days of open doors – the days when universities present their educational offers high school students – are really important to get a clear idea not only about the department where you want to study, but also about where you want it to do. Keep in mind, however, that these are promotional events where universities do their best to convince prospective freshmen to choose them.
If you’re undecided between two or three different universities, explore their online programs, read about the application process and learn about tuition fees, but also check out unofficial Facebook pages and physical meeting points (bars, cafes, copy shops). which act as a hub for students and alumni so you can gain insight into what is happening behind the scenes and adapt accordingly.
Get work experience
In addition to internships and work experience, seriously consider gaining work experience of any kind , not even related to your dream profession. Having a job not only provides a small income, but also changes a person’s worldview as they face new responsibilities, obligations and even stress. It is a learning experience that helps you understand yourself better : you may find that, unlike what you imagined, a profession related to public relations is suitable for you (and vice versa), or, conversely, you hate the office routine and need a job full of new incentives, you love or hate competition, you prefer to organize yourself or work as a team.
A simple job in the service industry (waiter, stall, promoter) will help you get to know yourself better, but don’t wait until graduation to discover your inclinations – it’s too late.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Choosing a university is an important moment in a student’s life, but decisions are often made based on distorted expectations and assessments suppressed by fear of failure. Do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the present : during the (minimum) three years required to obtain a diploma, the world of work will change a lot, and what is really in demand today may not be in demand tomorrow or only partially change: so do not base your choice on the present scenarios, because a lot will change in the world of work and in your life.
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It is important to shatter the catastrophic vision of failure : universities are designed so that students can change faculty and place of study if they realize they made the wrong choice. There is nothing wrong with realizing that you have chosen the wrong university: until you start studying, it is impossible to know if you made the right choice. However, it is important not to be paralyzed by fear. It is better to change direction in a few months and make up for lost time than to continue reluctantly, so as not to contradict your initial choice and admit that you made a mistake, eventually abandoning your studies or delaying it until graduation.
Have a plan B
If you’ve chosen a highly competitive university with rigorous entrance examinations, consider the possibility that you may not be admitted on your first try, so plan accordingly. If you know you will take a test, start preparing for it now, even if you are still in your third or fourth grade in high school: you will have enough time to understand what it will take on the exam and where you need to make the most of your efforts. … You can also ask high school students taking the test for details.
Don’t try to take the entrance test at just one university : take at least a few. If you fail the first option, you will have the opportunity to consider taking the test again next year, or – perhaps – apply for the second option if accepted. If you have not passed any of the tests, then you should analyze your progress and find out what went wrong in your preparation.
If you decide to retake the test next year , do not let this year go to waste: in addition to studying , sign up for professional courses to acquire new skills (learn a new language or learn to use special software), try an internship or earn extra money in the sector you are interested in . You will graduate a year later than your peers, but with a resume that already has several entries and additional skills that they may not have.