Ahh college, it’s almost my time to pack up all of my belongings into boxes and move it into a small room I’ll need to share. But let’s be real, we are all pretty excited to do just that! College is pretty strange, but it’s hard to find someone who isn’t thrilled.
Though, before you get to move off to college, you have to find the right one first! Hopefully this article helps you crack the code to picking the right school that will fit your needs. Let’s get into it.
1. Make sure you feel at home!
Having the ability to browse through schools online is a great thing. You have all kinds of information and photos about your dream school at the tips of your fingers. Though I would never pick a school without visiting the campus in person.
You will be living here for the next 4 years, make sure you feel at home on the campus! There were schools on my list that had great programs and looked great online, but after walking the campus, I couldn’t see myself living there for a week never mind 4 years.
Touring schools is HUGE. The cliché April vacation trip to tour as many schools as possible in a week is totally worth it. Again, all schools seem great on paper, but when you are there in person it can make or break it for you.
2. Pick a location that will work for you.
Some people would love to be at a huge school in the heart of New York City; others at a small school in suburban Massachusetts (where I wound up). I toured schools that were vastly different and I could see myself at either.
Are you someone who is willing to go just about anywhere for that special school on your list? Or are you dead set on staying within a couple of hours of home? Unless you have figured this out, you should definitely know what you can handle.
Are you okay with not visiting home much? Or on the opposite side, are you sure you don’t want to explore a bit and see a new state or area? Evaluate all the things that are tied to distance and see what you are willing to deal with.
3. Size may be more important than you may think.
I’m talking about the size of your school by the way. This is where you need to know what type of a person and learner you are. Have you always done better listening to lectures and taking notes? Or is being able to interact with the teacher throughout class more your cup of tea?
You will usually find plenty of opportunities at a big school whether it be through the countless majors, programs and extracurriculars, or the vast amount of people. They are a great option for someone who might not know exactly what they want or who would like to have the big school feel with a larger focus on sports and greek life. Though, if you aren’t outgoing, or maybe too outgoing, it is easy to lose yourself at such a large school. Also, remember that your freshman core classes will be huge, so you are typically just another person in the crowd.
Small schools make up for the lack of activity with the traditional small college perks. There is a tight knit community that most who attend a small college would hate to leave. You know learn to know everyone. Though they typically don’t offer as many majors or extracurriculars, but you are bound to find things and people that will interest you. Also, the thing that I find most attractive is the ability to get close to professors. That way you can make important connections early on in your college career!
There are also medium sized schools that you could get the best of both worlds at. I know I looked at plenty like that. It’s a great option for a solid mixture of the two.
4. Challenge yourself.
You obviously know that you are going to college to study, so make sure you attend one where you can challenge yourself. That should go without saying. School should be difficult, but don’t go stressing yourself out beyond belief.
That leads me to another point on academics. Though you might have gotten into the hardest school you applied to, it might not always be the best option, so do not get too “name obsessed” over a school that would sound impressive when you tell people you go there.
I think of it like choosing courses in high school. Receiving a D in an AP class is far worse than getting a B in an honors. Just as an A in a low level course is worse than a B in honors. Challenge yourself, but don’t over/under do it!
5. The college should keep your interest.
Yet another thing that should go without saying, but make sure the school has what interests you! Whether it be the major you intend on pursuing, or extra curricular activities to keep yourself engaged outside of the classroom, you want to make sure the school you pick has plenty of things to choose from! Do your research and see what might interest you. You’ll definitely want a life outside of academics.
As far as academics go, if you aren’t 100% sure what you want out of a school quite yet, try to avoid any specific schools such as a business or technology college. These schools are great if you know that you will stick to the general interest you have, but if there is a chance you could go from computer science to political science, it’s best to avoid that institution of technology you are interested in. Plus, at a versatile school you can take courses in something else that may interest you even if it isn’t your desired major!
This isn’t commonly talked about, but compromising while looking for a school is important. Maybe you can’t get into your top school, or if you did get in you can’t afford it. Life won’t always go your way, so knowing that you have to give up some stuff while looking for schools is important.
Your parents are also a big aspect. The college process is stressful for both of you, so make sure they are a part of your search. They are the only ones who truly care about you, so don’t push them aside! Parents want what’s best for you, but if you think that is attending a $60,000/year school without knowing what you want to study on the other side of the country, they will definitely let you know.
And don’t get stuck on minor details at a school. No school is perfect, but as long as the pros outweigh the cons in your mind, you’re good to go!
So now what?
Looking for a school is really tough, so good luck to all of you! Almost everyone winds up at the right school for them and I’m sure you will as well. I hope these tips will help you in your hunt. Have fun with it! You are about to start the next phase in your life; enjoy the trip. It will all work out in the end.
Do you have any other tips for people searching for a school? Leave a comment below and help them out!