Choosing a college is a big decision that can cause a lot of angst for students and parents alike. Fortunately, it’s possible to break the task down into smaller, manageable steps that will ultimately make the decision easier.
Make a List
Lists can be helpful in narrowing down your choice of colleges. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have a general sense of my intended major or field? Search for schools that have well-developed courses of study in the areas that interest you most.
- How close to home do I want to be? Some students prefer to be a short ride away while others want a totally different experience far from home. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be exciting, but you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. If the thought of only seeing your family on holidays stresses you out, studying across the country or abroad may not be the best choice.
- Do I prefer individualized attention or anonymity? If you like to interact directly with your professors and thrive with hands-on teaching, schools with smaller class sizes will be more appealing. However, if you are more comfortable with the relative anonymity offered by lecture halls, larger universities may be the way to go.
- Are there specific experiences I want to have? If you want to play a certain sport, spend a semester studying abroad, write for the school newspaper, get internship experience, etc., narrow down your list of options by eliminating schools that don’t offer those opportunities.
- What can I afford? Whether you are paying for college on your own or will have help from your family, get a sense of your maximum budget. Factor in any financial aid or scholarships you may receive, as well as increases in tuition and fees that might occur each year. Don’t forget to include your living expenses, either on or off-campus.
- Do I meet the admission requirements? While it’s OK to apply to schools that may be a reach for you in terms of grades, test scores or other requirements, you want to be sure to have a few “safe” options as well.
Visit Your Top Choices
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, it’s time to hit the road. All colleges put their best foot forward on their website and in brochures, which is why visiting your top choices in person before making your decision is so helpful. Most colleges offer tours conducted by current students, letting you experience the college and get some insight into what daily life is like on campus.
When you visit, pay attention to how you feel. Does the campus feel safe and welcoming to you? Do students seem happy? Can you picture yourself living in the dorms? Ask your student guide plenty of questions. See what they like the best about the school and ask what they would change if they could.
How many choices you have left at the end of the process will vary based on how many schools you apply to and how many accept you. Ideally, you and your top choice will be a perfect match, but if that isn’t the case, it’s good to have other options that will also be good fits for you. At the end of the day, the choice is yours.
If you have no inkling where (or if) you’d like to go to college, what you want to major in or what you want to do in terms of a career, there’s no need to panic. Our Find Your Fit program is designed to help. Through our Performance Dynamics® behavioral assessment; one-on-one college and career coaching sessions; and workshops; we help you find your “fit” in life, so you are happy and set up for success. We work with you every step of the way, setting goals and deadlines, starting as early as sophomore year.
If you need help choosing a college, narrowing down your career path or navigating the college admissions process, reach out today to learn how we can help.