Making the Right School Decision – 5 Alternative Considerations

So, you want to know how to choose the right high school or college. There are many different criteria one can apply to the choosing process. The most obvious is academic. But the “best” school isn’t always the best school for you. For the international student, it is important to see where a high school’s graduates are accepted to college. Most high schools send graduates to a variety of top 50 and 100 colleges with some regularity; it largely depends on the aptitude of the student.

Maximizing your child’s potential to learn – at both the high school and college level – is a product of choosing the right environment for their body, mind, and personality. Emotional and physical well-being are major components of overall educational success. With that in mind, consider these broad environmental influences to narrow down your school search:

1. Density

What are you talking about? What does “density” have to do with choosing the right school?

The best environment for you to study in is one that strikes a balance between the least amount of distractions and the most tolerable level of boredom. Basically, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? Density is about pace and lifestyle. The first thing a person must consider is if the city or the suburbs or the country suits their personality and compliments their best study practices.   

2. Geography

Okay, now we’re making a little more sense. Let’s talk about the climate!

Not really, climate and the weather are entirely different than geographic location. My wife could never live farther away than a short drive to the ocean. It grounds her, completes her, connects with her spirit. I, on the other hand, can live without sand in my trunks or between my toes. I do like the ocean, but prefer it viewed from a cliff; or, if I have to, venture to the beach when nobody else is around to soak up the sun through a hoodie and long pants.

Ocean, mountains, lakes, plains, rivers, forests, or desert; choose a place that speaks to your soul when stress is mounting.

3. Climate

Yes, now we can talk about the weather.

Here in New England we have a saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” I wish that were an exaggeration sometimes. There’s nothing like venturing out in the morning wearing a t-shirt and wishing you’d worn a sweater by lunch. In just the past 6 hours we went from 30°C to 10°C. We get to experience all kinds of temperature swings from season to season and day to day; it snows a lot in winter, the autumn leaves are stunning, the summers are hot and humid, and spring sometimes only shows up for a few weeks. That’s not for everyone.

If being warm is your thing, or powerful thunderstorms, or skiing, or a happy medium somewhere in between, choose your climate location carefully. It can ruin your concentration if you dread going outside.

4. Demographics

What if I don’t want to attend a school with too many kids from my country? What if I do want to attend a school with a lot of kids from my country?

You should definitely consider the reasons why you ask either of those questions. If your motivation to be around ex-pats while studying abroad is because of language and culture, you ought to take a moment to be honest with yourself. Leaving your country with the intent to recreate familiarity in another country is a sign you should consider staying home.

All it takes is one other student from your homeland for you to avoid the hard work of acclimation. That being said, it can be difficult to find a school where there aren’t any ex-pats. If this criterion is important to you, you’ll need to make sacrifices in other categories

5. Culture

Culture is a blend of many different things: language, food, music and arts, values, social norms, local laws and customs, etc. It may seem silly when considering a study abroad program in the US to say, “culture is a factor”. It’s rather obvious that the culture will be different. But, even in the US there are huge differences in culture from city to city, and region to region. California culture is so different from Texas culture as is Chicago to Boston to Miami. Even Canada, Europe, and Australia are vastly different in cultural characteristics. 

Do your research. Decide what’s most important to your sense of culture and then ask if you’re prepared to be challenged in that way.



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About the author

Mr. Walker is in his 8th year of working in the International Student industry on the heels of a 17 year career in government after deciding a career singing opera wasn’t an optimal choice. He and his wife, the lovely Susan, have been dedicated host parents to a multitude of students since 2011. Raising 4 daughters and 4 years of experience as a Program Manager for EduHup have uniquely prepared him to now serve as Training and Content Manager.

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