If you’re thinking of heading off to college but haven’t a clue as to where to begin, have no fear, there’s help for those who might be confused.
When hunting for the perfect college or university, bear in mind you don’t have to settle on the name brand or top 10 schools. There are many schools choose from — some well-known and some not so much, but surely, all worthy of your attention.
Here’s some tips for trying to find the school that works best for you
Who are you and why are you going?
Examine yourself and your reasons for going to college before you start your search. Why, really, are you going? What are your abilities and strengths? What are your weaknesses?
Are you self-sufficient or do you need to lean on others? Discuss these things with your family, friends and high-school counselors. These are the individuals who know you best and who can assist you with this important task.
Big or small institution?
Many good liberal arts colleges have a population of fewer than 4,000 for a reason; college is a time to discover, learn and a smaller community is the perfect place to explore. It is not the number of students attending, but the people themselves and the community in which you will learn that matters. Many large universities have established honors colleges within the larger university for these same reasons.
Big named colleges do not guarantee success
Why not ask the people in your life who are happy and successful and find out where they went to college? Chances are good you will learn that success in life has less to do with where you go to college than with the experiences and opportunities while in college, coupled with personal qualities and traits.
Employers and graduate schools are looking for outstanding skills and experience, not a college pedigree. As you hunt for colleges, ask about student outcomes; you will find many colleges that outperform the top colleges even though you may have never heard of them. Visit the National Survey of Student Engagement for help on sorting through the information and for questions to ask when visiting and choosing a college.
No need to choose a major to choose a college.
Very few high-school students have enough information or experience to choose a major. You need the variety and depth of college coursework to determine your interest. Most college students change their minds two or three times before they settle on a major, and still graduate in four years. Being undecided will leave you open to more academic experiences.
Don’t be turned off by fake news
Most of the colleges and universities are said to be admitting more students than they reject. If you’re worried about your chances of getting admitted — and you’re willing to investigate beyond a narrow band of highly selective colleges — you’ll find that you have many options that will result in the best place for you.
Get informed about your academic profile and compare it to the profile of the most recently admitted and enrolled class for the colleges you are investigating. Check the college admission Web site for this information. Ask your high-school counselor for additional advice and guidance as it applies to your school.
Don’t simply assume that you cannot afford college based on current tuition rates, you could miss out if you do. Investigate all the options and ask for help and advice, to find affordable choices. Online resources, as well as financial aid workshops sponsored by high schools in local communities, can get you started. College and university financial aid Web sites offer useful information and links, too, so begin early and ask for help.
Postponing college for a bit is OK, it never too late.
Some students benefit from a year off to work, study or travel, and these experiences let them be better, more engaged students. Some students choose to apply to college and gain admission and then defer their entrance, while others wait to apply until after they have had an alternative experience.
Either way, admissions officers want to know about your experience during your time off, and they’ll ask you to write about it as part of your admissions process. High-school and college admission counselors can provide resources for investigating alternatives that may be right for you. You could apply for an internship, study abroad, or participate in a community service project.
The most important factor in choosing a college is fit.
Choosing a college because your friends are going there or because of where it ranks on a list should not be your deciding factors. Finding the right fit requires time and thoroughness on your part.
Visiting college web sites and learning about what events take place, who visits as guest speakers, and how to find current students and faculty is a good way to supplement a campus visit — or to decide if you want to spend the time and money on a visit. Check a school’s web site to find the admissions officer assigned to your region of the country. Send them an e-mail to ask about getting in touch with students from your area.