• Michael Poting Cho

College Search and Why you are doing it WRONG

I have a bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of California — Berkeley. Sequentially, I earned a master’s degree in Psychology from Pepperdine University. It took me a total of eight years and over $100,000 tuition, not including the living expense.


After graduation, it took me 2 more years to figure out what I want to do with the degrees.

Hysterical! I spent over $150,000 and 8 years on my education, and I couldn’t figure it out before graduating.

Why invest so much time and money in something you don’t understand. I look back now and wish I could have done more research into the colleges that I was applying to and what I was gonna do with the degree.



It’s very hard for someone (you) who only has less than 18 years of life experience to plan their future 20 years, but it doesn't hurt to think about it.


In this post, we are going to discuss:

  1. Why is college search more important than your SAT score?

  2. What is the right approach when it comes to college search?

  3. How to start your college search?

“Is college search important to me? US News has ranked all the colleges. Isn't the best one just No.1?” Yes, to US News, that’s No.1. And they are No.1 because they are most selective. That means they are the hardest to get in. What is your №1? Do you want to go to the most selective college? What does high selectivity means to you? What is the difference between №1 and №2? If there is a difference, and №2 has the major, curriculum, club, faculty, and resource you need for your success. Do you still want to go to №1 the most? Find your №1 because it’s the best fit and start from there. A best-fit college will give you the education that you need to prepare for the future you want. Many students don’t think about this as much as I think they should. And I am speaking from my personal experience.



OK. What’s the big deal? Isn't college experience supposed to be fun and exploratory?


If you have the genius in Steve Jobs, you don’t really need to go to college. Your curiosity and interest will lead you somewhere. If you think college is still the safe way to go, most people chose that, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But pick a major that will prepare you for success. Pick a school culture that develops you into the character you will be proud of. Pick a campus where you can experiment and develop your interests with the most cutting-edge facility and faculty. If you are going to invest up to $200,000 on a product, aka diploma or degree, shouldn't you look more into your options?


First, take ownership of your education from now on. The degree serves you and your aspirations. If it doesn't serve you, then don't invest in it.

It means that education is impartial to your journey, but it is not the destination. It serves you, and you will make the most out of it. A proper college search will start right for your higher education journey.

Naive students assume the following, and they are wrong:

  1. Higher-rank colleges are better. That also means their degrees worth more.

  2. Private colleges are better than public colleges.

  3. College education leads to a successful future.

  4. A College degree gets me a good job.

WRONG WRONG WRONG. Here are the facts:

  1. Higher-rank colleges are more selective and more competitive to enter, but that doesn't mean they provide a better education than community colleges.

  2. Public colleges are just as selective and competitive as private colleges. In fact, 40 of the top 100 ranked by US News are public colleges.

  3. A college education does not lead to a successful future, but it helps significantly if you play your cards right.

  4. A college degree helps you to get your first job; the rest is on you. Supposed you did not choose a useless major that has nothing to do with modern society.


Do your college search right, make the future bright.

Follow the following steps to up your game in the college search, and may those actions result in a new perspective of education.

  1. Cover the Basics: Complete the Comparative College Requirement Worksheet. You can find all the information by search “[the college name] freshman profile.” For example, NYU Freshman Profile. This step helps you get a sense of the competition you are in to apply for the college.

  2. Major and Its Curriculum: Read, yes, you hear me. READ! Every college website is a little different, but they should have the degree requirement or major curriculum that lists the courses you need to take to earn your degree—for example, Electrical Engineer at Caltech and Public Health at UC Berkeley. You shall have a pretty good understanding of what the degree is about and what you will learn if you apply. Try to think about how will each course and its knowledge help you moving forward with your career.

  3. Faculty: Good professors make big differences in the college experience. You will encounter 30–50 professors throughout the 4 years. They are all experts in their fields, well-connected with their industries, and passionate and able to help young people succeed in life. Go to college websites and search for publication and faculty. For example, NYU Stern Business School has a showcase webpage on their research and facilities. I hope you find some professors that give you the excitement to go to their college because you will be able to learn from their lectures and have a chance to work on their projects.

  4. Special Programs: If you have decided on your major, look for special programs to enrich your learning experience. For example, MIT has projects to understand how does ecology affects human health. If you can talk about projects or initiatives happening on a college campus and want to be part of it, the college and you can envision how you will contribute to the force when you are on their campus.

  5. Alumni Linkedin Profile: Yes, this is a weird one. But, very important. Colleges will promise you a lot but don’t trust them and look at the results of their alumni. For example, visit UCLA Alumni on Linkedin, search for the majors you are interested in, and see where the alumni are now and what they are doing with their UCLA degrees. Ensure that the graduates from the school with the degree you want to pursue are doing what you want to do in the future.

  6. Club and Social Life: Not so important, but it doesn't hurt to look them up.

  7. Career Opportunity: College students start looking for an internship in their sophomore year and hope to continue to intern until graduation. The internship experience is the stepping stone to a good and full-time job. That’s being said — you cannot go far for your internship. Can you imagine finding a fashion company in Midwest? No. You need to go to East Coast. Seek for the main industries and companies nearby the campus, so you have the opportunity and accessibility to the right industry that will prepare you for the job you want to do.

  8. Lastly, School Mission and Greats: No college has the same mission, and its campus experience will center around its mission. Many are inspired by it and have done great in life. Below are some missions and the greats from those school

The role of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as the primary intellectual and cultural resource for the state is fulfilled through the three missions of the university: teaching, research, and service. Warren Buffett, Chairman, and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, one of most successful investors, went to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to study business for two years before transferring to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Buffett graduated from the University of Nebraska at 19 with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. The mission of the University of Michigan is to serve the people of Michigan and the world through preeminence in creating, communicating, preserving, and applying knowledge, art, and academic values, and in developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future. Larry Page, Google Cofounder, holds a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering from the University of Michigan, with honors and a Master of Science in computer science from Stanford University. Columbia University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis. It seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. Barak Obama, 44th President of the United State, first African-American president, and 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate transferred to Columbia University in New York City as a junior, where he majored in political science with a specialty in international relations and in English literature.


All in all — take ownership of your education. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Do your search properly, and your college life will be fulfilling, and your post-graduation life will be successful. You don’t need to go to college, but if you do and do your fucking research.



👦Michael Cho is an independent college counselor, counseling 8th- through 12th-grade and California Community College students. He assists students to identify strengths and weaknesses, design education paths, teach study skills, plan class selection and extra-curriculum, prepare for SAT/ACT, and college admission. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in Psychology from Pepperdine University. 🔈Join my College Made Easy Server and ask me anything 📄Check out the College Transfer Made Easy Workshop by me — WORKSHOP | LearnMast ⬇️Also, copy the Transfer Made Easy Progress Sheet to organize all your transfer research in one spot.


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