Before you brainstorm what your top choices might be, make sure you have an open mind. It’s easy to imagine what schools your friends are going to or to favor the “party schools.” We recommend keeping these things in mind before making a decision:
- Why are you going?
Before you begin your search, ask yourself the reasons for going to school. What are your goals? What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? You’re not expected to have your major chosen while still in high school, or even your first year, but why are you going? Do you want to remain close to family, or do you want a fresh start in a new city or state? Do you have specific academic goals? These are all important things to think about.
- Size Matters.
Now it’s time to think about whether you’d prefer a large university or a smaller college. Also- would you like to go for 2 years or 4? It’s always an option to start out at a smaller, local community college and transfer to a 4-year school. Think about what kind of learner you are. Would you prefer a more intimate classroom experience? Are you hoping to get into an honors program? Would you like to be a part of a bigger campus?
- Plan a Visit.
It’s easy to take someone’s word for it. Chances are- a friend of your’s older sibling can tell you all about it. But actually visiting campus and speaking with the college representatives will help you form your own opinions. Start by search the colleges on your list and schedule a visit. A tour of the college is a chance to experience the campus, check out the living accommodations, and get your questions answered.
- Don’t worry about money (yet).
Tuition- it’s the elephant in the room at this point. Although money can be a large factor in determining the college you attend, don’t let it dictate your goals. Financial aid and scholarships will help make cost a limited factor. Focus on being accepted before you start crunching numbers. But remember that out of pocket cost could be a lot less after financial aid and scholarships. (If you need assistance paying the application fee, ask your counselor about a fee waiver.)
- Learn about yourself and have fun.
During this process, you might find that some factors may not have been as important as they first seemed. Keep in mind that this is an investment and you want your needs met. The time you spend researching will be worth it once you’re able to choose the right college for you. But also remember that college can be a lot of fun. Look into extracurriculars or Greek life that you can participate in.
Researching the right college for you can seem overwhelming, but follow these steps and enjoy the process!