The journey to find a suitable college can be overwhelming. Once you hit your junior year of high school, the inevitable question about your school of choice will be a hot topic among all friends and family.
There are over 2,000 four-year universities in the United States. With all of the options, where does one even start?
Many are on a mission to find the “perfect college”. The truth is, there are a lot of establishments that will provide a great experience and a prolific education. The search for learning about colleges is more about exploring who you are and your goals, and then finding a school that meets those aspirations.
With all of the options available consolidating your possibilities into a controllable list will help you decide which colleges you should focus on applying to. The following tips will help guide you through this process:
1. Type of College
Are you considering a 2-year college or 4-year university? Public or Private? A specialty school such as a Fashion Institute, or a university with a strong engineering program? These are all questions you must ask yourself when discovering which college you should target during your application process. Deciding what type of college you want to attend is a great first step in finding a college that best suits you.
Now that you decided on the type of college, think about where geographically you would like to spend the next four years of your life. Before considering the cost of the school, really hone in on where you want your college experience to be. Are you planning on staying close to home, or do you want a completely new environment?
Similar to the physical location of the school, you will want to take the school’s atmosphere into consideration. You may want to attend a private school with strong religious values, or possibly sports are big part of your life and you want college games included in your college experience. Think about how you want to spend your time outside the classroom, what types of extracurricular activities do you enjoy? Are you interested in the arts or the debate team? Maybe joining a club or campus organization is important to you. Whatever it may be, you want to make sure you take full advantage of each opportunity available.
The financial burden of attending college can defer many from applying. For most families, cost is a big concern and that is understandable. But cost doesn’t have to dictate where you attend college. Be sure you are considering all the financial resources available to you. For example, do you qualify for financial aid? Are you eligible for scholarships? Do you have a good understanding of how much college will cost?
As you may know, a college major is the specific subject that you will spend a good amount of your time studying. For many universities, students will need to declare their major prior to starting school. In most cases, you will have plenty of time to decide your major and you are encouraged to explore new subjects. Although, if you are set on a university that requires you to declare your major prior to starting, consider the following questions:
- What is your dream job? What kinds of classes apply to that industry?
- What school subjects do you enjoy most?
- What do you enjoy outside of school?
6. Talk to Students and Alumni
This one may seem like a no brainer but could be the most influential component in your search for the right college. When someone asks you what schools you are applying to, return your response with a question about what school he or she went to. Learn about their college experience, what they liked or disliked. Ask questions about their major, their extra curricular activities. In addition, try to network with students that are already enrolled in the universities you are interested in. They can give you the inside scoop of what is currently happening on campus.
Connecting with likeminded students and alumni will give you direct insight into your school of interest.
7. Visit the University
You may not know the university is a right fit until you walk on its campus. This is the best way to know whether you will feel at home. If it is possible, take a trip to visit the university, go on an orientation or tour, and see if the university checks off each requirement on your list.
Some additional items you may want to keep in mind when searching for a suitable college are the following: housing options (on-campus vs. off-campus), the size of the university, diversity makeup of the student body, and family ties to the university, such as alumni.
Choosing a university may seem like a gruesome process. But it doesn’t have to be. This is an exiting time for you. You will be graduating high school and embarking on a new journey. Most universities have great culture, programs, and academics to offer. Truly whichever school you decide to attend, will in the end be the right decision and bring tremendous opportunity.
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