There are almost 27,000 universities in the world, all offering different courses, lifestyles, and experiences. When students face the daunting task of choosing where to apply, it’s natural for them to feel overwhelmed.
After all, it’s a huge decision, and one that will impact the entire course of the rest of their lives.
According to this year’s International Student Survey, there are several factors that students find most important when choosing a university or course. These include: quality of teaching; graduate employment rates; university rankings; financial aid; and family/friend recommendations.
Because it’s impossible to research every institution, these are criteria that can quickly narrow down the number of options, and students can feel under pressure to prioritise some of these factors to simplify their decision-making.
There’s no doubt they are all important things to bear in mind. However, there is one key thing missing.
You will undoubtedly spend a lot of time stressing to your students the importance of finding a best-fit university, somewhere that aligns with their own preferences and personalities.
This is one of our core philosophies here at BridgeU. We believe that the best higher education decisions are made when students are able to get recommended their best-fit institutions and courses around the world based on a range of criteria.
In this post we’ll explain why university matching is so important, and talk you through how BridgeU’s algorithm uses data on over 26,000 global universities to provide students with highly personalised higher education recommendations. We’ll also look at some matching success stories.
The landscape of higher education is changing
It’s predicted that by 2030 there will be an additional 350 million post-secondary graduates, and a significant increase in the number of globally mobile students. Demand for higher education is growing, and this means that there is also an increasing number of global university options to choose from.
In many cases, students don’t know all the options available to them, limiting their search before they even begin. Or conversely they fall on the other side of the spectrum, being bombarded with information from every direction and making decisions based on the wrong factors.
This has led to a worrying pattern in university dropout statistics. A staggering 31% of US college students don’t make it to graduation, and UK dropout rates have risen for the third year in a row.
That’s why we built a way to ensure that students are able to consider university and course recommendations to which they are extremely well suited.
We want to help counselors adapt their guidance strategy to encourage students to discover new options tailored to their unique personalities and preferences, without having to trawl through thousands of websites!
By doing this students make more informed and realistic post-secondary choices, discover a wider range of places that might be a great fit for them – and in turn, are less likely to drop out, change course, or have a poor university experience.
And we’re not the only ones who think so. Here’s what Gavin Fuller, a counselor at Utahloy International School Zengcheng, said about the benefits of BridgeU’s approach to university matching:
“The arena of university guidance has changed very rapidly. We know how students operate, but now we can also use BridgeU to inform that, and help them make better choices. It’s intuitive for this generation of students.”
So how does it work?
It’s all well and good to talk about what the university matching can do, but how exactly does it work, and how do you know your students are getting personalised and accurate recommendations?
In this section we’ll explain a bit more about how students can use the Matcher to find their best-fit universities.
Let’s dive in…
Step one: building a profile
The first thing students should do when logging into BridgeU is create their profile. This forms the basis of the Matcher’s recommendations, so it’s important they fill it out as comprehensively as possible.
On the Profile Builder, students will be prompted to enter a variety of information about themselves:
By entering their target grades, a student can get realistic university recommendations, so they don’t over or underestimate themselves.
These can be broad (like Humanities), or specific (like Aeronautical Engineering). Students can choose as many subjects as they like, and can specify whether they are open to considering other areas.
These are questions about the atmosphere students think they will thrive in, and what they want from their university experience – for example, whether they prefer urban or rural settings, whether they would like to meet other international students, or whether they want to attend an academically selective institution.
Step two: viewing recommendations
The Matcher takes all of the above criteria into account when it generates a student’s matches. They’ll be given a list of best-fit universities and courses, each with a Preference Fit score and a Chance of Acceptance score.
The Matcher scores each university based on how well it matches each of a student’s preferences (which they entered when building their profile) – and these are aggregated together to come up with a final score.
So if a student expresses a preference for a university with at least 20% international students, any university with more than 20% international students will score highly. Conversely, if a student expresses a preference for a small university, big universities will have a low score for this category.
The reason that this approach works so well is that students do not filter out options that might be a great holistic fit for them. For example, if a student favours a rural setting, but a city university happens to fit every other one of their preferences, it will still appear in their recommendations – they are able to discover new places without limiting themselves.
Chance of Acceptance
For UK, US and Canadian institutions, students are also given a Chance of Acceptance score, which is generated by comparing their target grades with the university’s entry requirements and success rates of previous applicants.
Matches are sorted into three categories – Reach, Match, and Safety – so students can make sure they are applying to a variety of both realistic and aspirational options.
Step three: shortlisting and discarding
Once the Matcher has generated its recommendations, students can click on each institution to see its profile, and then choose to add it to their shortlist or discard it.
Step four: university research
By now students will have significantly narrowed down their options. The list will look less daunting, and they’ll be ready to begin their research.
When they enter their Shortlist, they can click on each match and access an in-depth overview of the university and course, including class size, student life, and clubs and societies. They’ll also find a link to the university’s website so they can explore further.
Step five: submitting applications
When you come to arrange meetings with your students, they should already have a fully-formed list of institutions and courses that align with both their preferences and target grades.
Now, all that’s left is to write and compile the applications themselves.
When a student decides to apply to a university, they can add it to their applications list, and you can use BridgeU to keep track of their progress, send required documents, and help them write their Personal Statements and Common App essays.
What university matching can do for your school
Many of our customers have expressed that using the Matcher has allowed their students to discover a wider range of global university options, that they might not have thought about before.
Colin Bradshaw, Head of Sixth Form at Southlands School, has noticed a wider variety in student applications as a result of using BridgeU:
“Our students are now widening their net of possibilities for Post-18 education and picking universities worldwide.”
Marcus Allen, Head of Careers & Professional Guidance at Benenden School, also notes that BridgeU has made it easier for students to find and apply to universities outside of their home country:
“BridgeU offers students options that they might not have thought about, based on their preferences. Higher education has become increasingly more global, and students can see global opportunities via BridgeU quite easily.”
And Ana Flores, counselor at Uruguayan American School, has found that the Matcher has helped her students to make more informed higher education decisions:
“Students really liked seeing their matches. It was an important reality check seeing universities in the reach column, but then it was nice to see it instantly made them make more realistic choices without me having to crush their dreams!”
Choosing a university and course is a monumentally life-changing decision for secondary school students around the world, and one that is often made based on the wrong factors.
In order to make the best higher education choices – and to avoid dropping out or having a poor university experience – students in 2019 need to have access to the information, tools and support infrastructure that empowers them to discover their best-fit post-secondary options globally.
If you want to learn more about how university matching can benefit your school, book a free consultation with one of our Education Partnerships team.