Deciding where you want to go to college is exciting, but it can also be a scary process. While it’s important to focus on academics and where you’d like to be after college, there’s still a lot more to it. This is where you’ll evolve into someone new as you join new extracurriculars, meet new people, and have new experiences. If you’re struggling and don’t know how to choose where you want to attend college, don’t worry! In this article, we’ll share our best tips to pick the right college for you.
Going to college is a big step that will affect your life. Before you even start to look at colleges, it’s important to understand where you are in life right now. If it isn’t the right time to go to college, that’s okay! It doesn’t mean that you can’t go to college in the future. The point is, college is a big commitment, so make sure you’re ready.
There are a lot of different schools that you can choose from. This is a great opportunity, but it can also be overwhelming. That’s why making a list of what you want in a school can make this process a little easier. The good news is that there is no right or wrong way to do this because each person is unique. You might want to attend a school with many sporting events or clubs to join, or you might want a smaller school so that there are fewer people in your classes. It might take some time to compose this list, so give yourself a few days to think about it, and then come back to your first draft.
No one starting college has their whole life planned out, but it helps if you have some direction. Maybe you know that you want to work in business, but you just don’t know which industry. Maybe you’re fascinated with politics, but you don’t exactly know what a Political Science major entails. Regardless, eventually, you will need to declare a major, so start thinking about what you want to do after college. If you have no idea, don’t worry. You’ll have time to explore different classes to figure out what your passion is.
Once you have a better idea of what you’re looking for in a school, start looking at different schools on the internet. Maybe you want a large school where it’s warm, or instead, you want a small school somewhere that doesn’t get too hot. Whatever your non-negotiables are, you’re in luck! There are plenty of schools to choose from. If an internet search is too overwhelming, start smaller. Ask your friends and family for advice. You can also seek out help from a teacher, counselor, or boss. Make a list longer, if possible. Then, you’ll start to do some research about each of these schools to make it smaller.
Keeping in mind the list you previously made about what you are looking for in a college, start to look at the schools that interested you. The best way to do this is by actually visiting the school and taking a tour. If you’re physically there, then you’ll have a better idea of whether or not that school is a good fit for you. If you don’t have the option to go to the school, many offer virtual tours, or you can even ask to schedule a phone call with someone from the admissions department. However, you can still do more to learn about the school. For example, you can reach out to current students or alumni, or you can spend a little bit more time looking at their website. How many students go there? What are their extracurricular options? How is their Marine Biology program? Ask yourself questions like these to help determine if this is somewhere you’d like to go.
After you’ve completed all of your research, it’s time to start narrowing your list of schools down. You might have realized that one was too far away from home or that they didn’t offer the major you were interested in. Don’t dwell on it too much and cross it off and move on. If your instinct tells you it isn’t somewhere you want to go, listen to it.
Because you probably looked at many different schools, you might have forgotten some key pieces of information or have new questions to ask. If you haven’t already, this is a great time to reach out to the admissions department. They can give you more insight into how the application process works and answer any lingering questions that you might have. While this isn’t a necessary step, that quick email or phone call will help the decision process go a lot smoother.
Once you have a better understanding of which schools you want to apply to, be proactive in learning about the application requirements. You’ll need your high school transcript, which can take a while to get. You might need one or two recommendation letters, standardized test scores, or an essay. This might seem like a lot, but the point is, the sooner you start to finish these requirements, the easier and less painful it will be when the application deadline is approaching. It also differs for each college. For example, some might give you the option to omit your standardized test scores if you submit an additional recommendation letter or essay. You can use this to your advantage, like if you aren’t a strong test-taker and prefer writing.
You’ve probably heard of Early Action and Early Decision, and if you’re serious about a particular school, this might be something you want to consider.
Whether you want to apply early, commit to a school, or just go through the process as normal, it’s important to submit the application as soon as you can— those deadlines come up quicker than you think.
After you have started to submit your applications and have had time to think about where you want to go, try and revisit these schools. You can schedule another tour or simply just walk around campus for a little bit. You might not get that “aha” moment that many people talk about, but you will probably at least get a feeling of whether or not you can see yourself as a student on that campus. If you don’t have the option to go back there, look at their website again, see if they have any videos about life on campus or anything else that will help you learn more about them.
When people start to look at different schools, they sometimes look at college rankings. This can be helpful, but it doesn’t give you the full picture. Especially when it comes to larger schools, sometimes the departments are very different. Maybe you found a school that you loved and has a great reputation, but their science program isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. Maybe you want to pursue a business major, but there aren’t many companies around that area where you can intern. You can look at academics at a smaller level. And remember, college is what you make out of it. Even if you think you aren’t going to a renowned school, the work and effort that you put into your studies will pay off.
It’s no secret that college is expensive, so having a budget and a plan for paying it should factor into which college you end up choosing. If you’re unsure, look into your options for taking out student loans. You don’t necessarily have to take out these loans, but you should at least consider it and be familiar with the process. You also might get financial aid from the government or the college itself in your acceptance letter. Towards the end of the application process, when you start to hear back from the schools that you applied to, compare these options. Lastly, you should be aware of the differences between loans, grants, and scholarships as some need to be paid back, and for others, you need to maintain a certain GPA, number of classes each semester, or other requirements.
The more schools that you apply to, the more of a chance there is that you’ll face rejection. However, the chance of getting accepted also increases. You will likely receive at least one rejection letter, but don’t let that discourage you. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t good enough for that school. It just means that they aren’t a good fit for you. It’s normal to feel upset for a little bit, but afterward, pick yourself back up and keep on going. It will be worth it in the end!
Whether you’re graduating college and becoming an adult or deciding to change your career path, college is hard. You’ll be given more responsibilities, and some classes might be a lot harder than you expected. However, this doesn’t mean that you made the wrong choice when making your final decision. So, if those first few weeks are tough and you’re struggling in class or finding it hard to make friends, give it some time.
College is marketed as the best four years of your life, and while you’ll make lasting memories and evolve into a new person, there will inevitably be setbacks. Your roommate might not be your best friend, or the food might not be as good as you were told—everyone goes through this! So, listen to your gut and pick the school that makes you excited and that you think you will thrive in. Especially in the beginning, it might be a difficult adjustment. You might be living away from home for the first time, or you might be taking a difficult course. Enjoy the process of going to college and picking a college! It might be hard at first, but that’s a sign of growth.
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