5 Things To Keep In Mind During Your College Selection
Selecting your college or university is one of the biggest decisions of your life. Though there’s certainly a great deal of excitement associated with college selection—there can also be a ton of anxiety.
From how expensive a school is, to the campus culture, to everything in between, there are so many factors to take into consideration. But before you dive headfirst into every college information book you can find, remember, this process is all about you.
So take a deep breath, relax, and start by considering the following before you choose your college or university.
1. Think About What’s Important to YOU
This many sound simple, but making a list of specifics “wants” about your college experience can make all the difference as you go through the process.
Do you want a college in the top 50 with prestige and history, or a school where you can carve your own path? Are you more interested in big school with a sprawling campus or a little school with small classes? Will you enjoy an exciting bar scene or will a quieter community help you stay focused?
There are no right answers to these questions—they’re all about what you want most. People may try to push you in certain directions, but always remember that in the end you’re the only person whose opinion matters.
Once you make your list, search for colleges online with those characteristics and start narrowing down your options.
2. Location, Location, Location…
America is a big place, with so many different types of climates, cities, and opportunities. The “where” of your college experience will be just as important as the “which.” Once you figure out what you want out of your college experience itself, research some of the schools you may be considering to find out what its actually like to live there.
For example, you may not think you’ll care if it rains a lot, or if it gets cold for six months out of the year, but seasonal depression is real. Consider if you’re an outdoors person, or if you love studying outside—because the right climate is key.
Furthermore, think about whether you want to have a city close by or are fine with a smaller college town. Getting out into the community will be an important part of your college experience—so make sure it can give you the resources you’ll need!
3. Social Scene
Your fit into the campus culture itself is a huge indication of how happy you’ll be with your choice. The activities, people, and organizations on campus will give you a chance to get involved outside the classroom.
What kind of clubs do you hope to join? Are you looking for volunteer work or social justice opportunities? Would you like to pledge a fraternity or sorority?
Colleges will have different emphases on what activities they offer, so think about ways you want to get involved. Try looking at student activities websites, and read online about campus life at the schools you’re considering.
You could even reach out to some students through Facebook to see what information you can gather about life at your prospective school. Remember, you can never have enough information!
4. Show Me the Money…
We can say it: college is expensive. While it shouldn’t be the only factor to consider, the cost of your school will inevitably play a role in your decision.
Luckily, schools make their costs and tuition rates public and easily accessible. You’ll be able to compare your choices, and decide which school checks all of your boxes, and stays in your budget. Keep in mind that more inexpensive schools may actually give you the same opportunities as the ones that cost the most.
Look beyond the prestige and consider whether the most expensive schools will actually give you the college experience you’re looking for. Perhaps that $50,000 a year Ivy League school doesn’t have the same great history department as that smaller, West Coast school you found.
Plus, you can look to see what kind of financial help you can receive. It’s possible that you could earn a scholarship, or that one of your college choices has a fantastic financial aid department.
5. What Comes Next?
You may not want to start thinking about job prospects before you’ve even begun your college experience. However, considering the success of students after graduation can be a great way to tip the scale when you’re torn between two choices you love.
Look up each colleges’ career center, internship opportunities, employment statistics, and alumni network. These and other resources are indications of what kind of help you’ll receive when you’re ready to join the workforce.
Also, dig around to see how many career fairs your school choices have per semester. These types of events are great networking opportunities, and they vastly improve your chances of post-grad employment.
In the end, these are all just jumping off points. Never forget that your choice will be uniquely suited to what you’re looking for.
Seek out information, ask plenty of questions, and know that so long as you stay honest and true to what you want, you’re sure to make the right choice.