How to Launch a Jewish College Search

How to Launch a Jewish College Search

By Anna Streetman

The start of school means that it’s time for new high school seniors to look for colleges that will provide them with the Jewish experience they want.

Joanne Max and Sharon Karpel of Your College Direction have years of experience in clinical psychology, clinical neuropsychology, and guidance and career counseling. In workshops last school year at Temple Kol Emeth on how to conduct a Jewish college search, they discussed common mistakes and showed students how to find schools that fit their expectations for the Jewish college experience.

Joanne Max
Joanne Max

“The most important thing to consider when applying to schools is what you want out of your experience,” Max said. “Do you want a Hillel on campus? Is there any Greek life? Would you want to take any Judaism-related courses? Every student’s needs and expectations are different. You have to figure out what’s most important to you.”

In an interview, Max cited several common mistakes that rising seniors make. They include procrastinating, missing or misreading deadlines, having an unprofessional email address, not giving teachers adequate time to write recommendations, and forgetting to clean up their social media accounts.

She encourages students to limit résumés to one page, two at most. Max recommends that students have an open dialogue with their parents while applying to schools, including having “the money talk.”

Max and Karpel agree that showing extra interest in a school is necessary and beneficial. Max recommends reading through a university’s website to get a sense of what type of applicant it is looking for. She said smaller schools tend to care more about student demonstrations of interest.

“You have to show them that they want you and that you don’t just want them,” Max said.

Karpel has suggestions on how to show extra interest in a college. She recommends attending a college fair, signing up to meet with a college rep who visits the high school campus, and taking a tour of the college campus.

Sharon Karpel
Sharon Karpel

Max and Karpel said certain colleges have become more popular with Jewish students in recent years, including Elon University in North Carolina, the College of Charleston in South Carolina, the University of South Carolina and Indiana University.

The College of Charleston has a well-developed Jewish studies program, Max said.

In recent years, some colleges have tried to encourage more Jewish students to attend. In 2010, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., built a Hillel chapter in the hope of attracting Jewish students, and the University of Alabama in 2012 rechartered Sigma Alpha Mu, a historically Jewish fraternity.

Applying to college is difficult and time-consuming, especially if you are searching for a school with a Jewish presence. But with patience and a little bit of guidance, every student can find a college that is right for him or her.


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