How To Choose A CollegeGo Back To Guides
Like millions of teenagers throughout the world, you have decided to go to college - but where? Unless you know exactly which school you have your heart set on, you have a lot of research ahead of you. Luckily there are numerous resources available to help you with your decision.
But before you start scouring for information, you need to ask yourself some very important questions, all of which relate to what it is you are looking for in your college experience. Here are some questions to give you a starting point:
- What kind of degree are you looking to obtain - Associate's (two-year program), Bachelor's (four-year program), Master's (one to two year program after Bachelor's)?
- What are you interested in majoring in? Which schools offer this program of study?
- How far away from home are you willing to go? Shorter distances mean more home cooked meals but possibly less freedom. Longer distances give you more independence, in addition to more travel arrangements for the holidays.
- Would you rather have warm, sunny days, the challenge of a stormy winter, or a little of both?
- What kind of environmental setting do you prefer? An urban setting or a college near mountains and lakes?
- Are you drawn to a certain region of the country? Or do you need to live near a coastline?
- What size of a school would you prefer? Small and intimate, or large and more diverse?
- What type of social atmosphere fits you? Do you prefer the quiet of a small-town school, or the energy of a large-city school?
- What sized classes work best for you, and how much interaction with your professors is important to you?
- Do you prefer a public or private college? Public colleges get funding from state governments and may be less expensive especially for in-state residents. Private colleges tend to have higher admission costs, yet may have significant financial aid and cater to specific interests that you may find more appealing. Do your high school grades and test scores let you apply to more selective colleges or are they more fitting to a college with an open admissions policy?
- Are you interested in special academic programs such as double majors, accelerated study or honors programs to name a few?
These and many other questions will help you to narrow down the infinite choices you have. The next step is to get information. Below are some resources that can help aid in your decision.
Guidance Counselors - Your school guidance counselor is an indispensable resource when it comes to choosing a college. He/she has years of experience and information when it comes to helping students find out about colleges, and is also familiar with the courses you have taken throughout the years and are currently taking, as well as test scores. They can help you to make a list of the colleges that would best suit you, and also give you guidance on how to contact these colleges in order to request information.
Go Online - The Internet is loaded with information. There are even Web sites with tools to help you develop a list and hone your choices. Look for a college's Web site which may allow you to take virtual tours of the campus, dorms and classrooms. Search around and you're bound to find everything from a list of classes offered, scheduled tests, applications, costs and financial aid, admissions policies, campus activities and housing programs. You may even find team scores and the coolest sweatshirt in the college bookstore. There are also other sites such as ratemyprofessor.com that allow you to see what students are saying about their professors.
College Fairs and Representatives - Every year college representatives attend fairs and go to high schools in order to familiarize students with what their institution has to offer. They are ready to answer questions and have plenty of materials available for you to review.
College Rankings - Though there is some debate regarding college rankings and how the information is perceived, for the most part rankings can be a very comprehensive way to compare colleges that you are interested in. Keep in mind that even if a college is rated the best above the others, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's the best for you. You will see information regarding the student to professor ratio, the male to female ratio, the average SAT scores and GPAs of the students, the type of housing and transportation available, the number of majors and degrees offered, the number of students attending, the type of town surrounding the college, and much more. You can then take your answers from the list of questions above and compare colleges side by side.
Parents, Family and Friends - Having an open dialogue with those close to you will help you in many ways. They can share their experiences, offer advice, pose questions and be a sounding board for your concerns and issues. If they've gone to college or have friends and siblings that have, you will probably get the most in-your-face descriptions of what a particular school is like and what their overall experiences were.
College Tours - Visiting campuses is a great way to get a hands-on feel for the colleges you are considering. You can speak with advisors, professors and students, tour the campus and dorms, see what the classrooms look like, and get a feel for the surrounding community. Start a dialogue with the department head of the major you are considering, and inform the administrative office that you have paid a visit. This may come in handy when your application is being considered; colleges like to see how interested you truly are in attending their school.
Above all, go with what your heart tells you. If your best friend wants to go to a community college but you want to go out of state, do what's best for you. If everyone you're graduating with is going to the opposite coast, but you want to see your family on a regular basis, again do what you feel is right. Your college experience is your own and it is one that will shape you and grow with you for years to come. Good luck!