Selecting the right college for you
Many high school students know that they wish to pursue higher education at a 4 year college or university, but very few know exactly which institution they would like to attend. Selecting the right college is a complicated choice, and the decision should not be made quickly. When deciding on the ideal college, you should take into consideration both personal and academic goals. A good deal of research is necessary to determine which colleges fit your qualifications. When researching, it can be helpful to divide information into three parts:
- Basic Fact Gathering
- Academic Research
- Personal Investigation
Gathering information at each of these levels allows you to look at the colleges as a whole and make an educated decision about which ones may be right for you.
Level 1: Basic Research
The key to picking the right college is to do your research and do it well. The first thing you need to do is investigate and identify the colleges you are interested in attending. After you have compiled a list of universities, make sure to research each one extensively. When making your list, consider factors like these:
- Size and student demographics
- Entrance Requirements
- Average Scores and GPA of Accepted Students
- Scholarships and financial aid
- Type of college (public, private, online degree, community college)
- Majors offered at the college
- Extracurricular activities provided at the college or in the surrounding area
Once you have done the upfront research and gotten all the necessary facts, narrow your list down to the colleges that feel like a good fit for you as a learner and individual. Remember, while doing your research and compiling your list, it is essential to pick a college that is a good fit for YOU and not the college all of your friends are attending.
Level 2: Academic Research
Next, take your list of colleges and make sure they meet all of your needs as a learner. When researching each college, ask the following questions to make sure you are making the correct choice for you:
- Does the college focus on the academic goals I need for a future career?
- How does this college rank in comparison to other colleges for my intended major/field of study?
- How strong is the college in terms of its programs and professors that teach in the different fields I am considering?
- How many courses does the college offer in my field?
- Will this college still be a good fit if I decide to change my major?
After each of these questions, make sure to note how the colleges stack up against each other. Now that you have completed two rather intensive levels of research, it should be easy to eliminate choices and compile your “Top 5” colleges that fit your goals as a learner.
Level 3: Personal Research
Once you have narrowed your list of colleges down to your top choices, make sure to visit each campus before making a decision. Schedule time to take a tour of the school. As you tour the college, don’t be afraid to ask any questions and clear up any concerns you may have about each campus. Get a feel for the campus life and what you will be doing each day as a student at the college. You may want to see if you can attend a class or two, interview with an admissions officer while you are there, and maybe even stay overnight in the dorms. This level of research will allow you to get a personal feel for the college and make sure you get a good vibe from the school. Try to talk to the students! Nobody will have more accurate insight about on-campus life.
Your End Goal
Once you have explored each college on a basic, academic, and personal level, you should have a better understanding of which colleges will be a good choice for you. The goal at the end of all this research is to pick a college that will provide you with an enjoyable education that prepares you for your next step towards a satisfying career.