How To Choose A College

Choosing a college will be one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make. The right college will make you feel at home and give you all of the skills you need to land a well-paying job in your career field. Choose the wrong college, though, and you’ll find yourself uncomfortable, unhappy, and considering dropping out.

Luckily, choosing the right college isn’t actually all that difficult if you know what questions to ask yourself. The first step is figuring out what is most important to you. Answer the following questions:

  • How close do I want to be to home?
  • Is small class size important to me?
  • What majors interest me most?
  • Do I want to live in a rural area or a city?
  • Do I intend to go to grad school?
  • Are clubs and sports important to me?

Then, do some research (College Board is a great place to start) and begin visiting colleges! Note that I didn’t mention anything about money – no matter what your financial situation, with student aid, which is available for absolutely everyone, you can afford any school. You should include at least five colleges on your list of places to visit, including one that is farther than you think you want to travel from home and one that is either larger or smaller in terms of what you think you want in a school. Here are some tips and tricks when it comes to visiting schools:

If possible visit colleges that older friends attend. You’ll get “insider” knowledge this way and a real taste for student life. You can’t get that from a typical college visit. If the school really does interest you, though, go back for an official visit.

Participate in overnight programs when available. It’s the next best thing to having a friend on campus; it gives you a better feel for typical life at that school.

Eat lunch or dinner on campus, read a magazine in the library, etc. You want to get a feel for what it is like to live there, so it pays to know if the food is good, if the library is a productive place to do work, and so forth.

See multiple rooms in the dorms if possible. The college likely has a “show” dorm room set up for tours, but not every room will look the same. If you ask, your tour guide might be willing to show you his or her room or a friend’s room as well.

Find out the job-hunting success rate for alumni in your department of choice. Some colleges have extensive networking possibilities for people who are soon going to graduate. Others just throw you to the world.

Set up an interview on the day of your tour. The admissions office will interview you, which gives you a better chance at being accepted, and it will also give you a chance to ask questions that your tour guide can’t necessarily answer. Here’s some great interview advice.

Talk to your parents and guidance counselor. Ultimately, it is you who will decide where to go to college, but it helps to talk about your choices with other people.

Check out this National Survey of Student Engagement article for more college visit tips and advice on choosing a college!


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