How to Choose the Right College

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The process of going to college begins long before you actually get admitted into a college.  The process starts as far back as sophomore year in high school, where you’ll be taking countless practice SAT tests.  Then, during your junior or senior year, it’s time to take the real SAT or ACT, as well as a couple of AP courses. Not to mention, finding your way around FAFSA, and learning about student loans is an entirely different ball game!

Now add choosing the right college into the picture.  Every student that has been here, knows that this process can be an overwhelming one.  But don’t panic.  There are ways around it, and you don’t have to let this frustrating process of finding the right college get to you. Here are some tips to help you find the right college.

Know Exactly What You Want Out of College

Going to college is a big commitment. That is why it’s important to know why you’re there, and what you want to do after you graduate. Start by asking yourself what your goals are in life. Then ask yourself how will you achieve those goals. Lastly, ask yourself what you will do in college to help achieve those goals.  

Other important things to ask yourself is whether you’d like to land a job right after college, or continue to obtain a graduate degree. If you’re having a hard time deciding, it is wise to either speak with your parents, or your school counselor.

Where Would You Feel the Most Comfortable?

If you absolutely love your hometown, try finding a school that is either in that town, or close by.  If you would like to try a different place on the map, then get to searching.  Ask yourself where you would be the happiest, and know where your opportunities are.  Now is the time to look up different states, and cities, and try to imagine yourself there.  Lookup what else is in those areas, and whether there are good job opportunities as well.

Start Visiting Schools

In order to choose the right school, it is important to visit all of the colleges or universities that you’re considering. Many schools will offer open tours during the fall and spring semesters, so take advantage of those. Plus, you’ll get to interact with the current students, and ask them questions about programs and extracurricular activities that you may be interested in. Take note of how happy the student body looks. This is a good way to see whether students really enjoy the school.

Create a List

Make a small list of schools to which you would be interested in applying. This will help you weigh your options and start eliminating schools off the list.

List the Pros and Cons of Each School

Take your list that you’ve created and write down the pros and cons for each school.  This will help you start narrowing down your choices when it’s time to start filling out applications.  Keep in mind that one small disadvantage isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  However, if there are more disadvantages than advantages, then it may be wise to cross that school off your list.

Contact Departments

If you know what you want to study, contact departments with the same concentration at the different schools on your list. What makes these departments different? Maybe one department really stood out to you more than the others. Did some of the departments have opportunities for generous scholarships? Maybe you’re looking for a department that offers the most undergraduate research. Whatever it is, the only way you’ll find out is if you call and ask.

Narrow Down Your Choices

You’ve finally toured all schools that you were interested in, and talked to professors and students. Now it’s time to cross as many schools off the list. Ask yourself where you felt the most comfortable, and what schools offered the best opportunities. Ideally, by the time you’re done crossing schools off the list, you will want to have only five or six schools on your list.

Now it’s time to start applying to colleges! Don’t let the college-hunting process overwhelm you. With the help of these tips, you’ll be on your way to the college of your dreams!

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