I can remember when I was in high school getting ready to look for colleges to attend. I knew what I wanted to major in, so I could at least narrow the field down by that metric. But after that, where does one turn? Do you go to the same college as your friends or significant other? Maybe the college with the best parties or warm weather all year long is the one for you? While all of these things are nice, they aren’t what you should base picking a college on. Below I point out the factors that should come into play when finding the right college as well as how to narrow the field down.
Finding The Right College – The Factors
Weather, parties and friends are the sole reason you should pick a college. In fact, these really shouldn’t factor in at all. As I said at the beginning, your first step should be to narrow the field down to the colleges that handle your major.
From there, you should look into cost. After all, cost is going to be a huge deciding factor as to whether or not you can even attend said college. After you narrow down the list to the schools you can afford, then you need to revisit your major again. Are any of the leftover colleges known for this major? Some colleges are known specifically for certain majors. These should be at the top of your list.
Your next step is to visit the colleges and see if it fits you. I visited many colleges and found one that fit me. It was a small college that had an “old” feel to it. It felt like home to me since I came from a small private school and that school was old. The college I chose felt like a fit right away.
Finding The Right College – Compiling A List
This is how you actually get a list of colleges and then narrow your list down. Your first stop should be the internet. There you can research colleges and see what each one has to offer. Once you have a list of potential colleges, you can visit the college websites to get a better understanding of them.
Additionally, look to see if the college has a LinkedIn page. More and more colleges now have a University Page within LinkedIn. Here, you can learn a lot about the college in a short amount of time. You can even see some who some notable alumni are and network with current and former students.
One quick aside, if you don’t have a major, narrowing down your choices can be more difficult. In this case, I would suggest you look at larger state college as opposed to smaller colleges that specialize in a few areas. The reason is simple: you don’t want to “box yourself in” at the smaller college. If it turns out you want to major in a field they don’t offer, then you are going to have to transfer.
Visit The Campus, Be A Student
All colleges will offer you the chance to visit for the afternoon and take a tour. This should be your first move after compiling a list. After the tour, you will want to see if the college offers you the opportunity to stay overnight and attend class the next day. I highly encourage this. You will learn a lot by seeing what life as a student is all about.
Of course, there is one caveat to this. You have to keep things in perspective. Chances are, you are going to think it is awesome to be away from Mom and Dad. While it is for that night, remember, it is only one night. Also, there is a good chance that alcohol will be involved as part of the overnight festivities. Again, don’t let this cloud your judgment. Drinking every night is not the norm in college. For those that it is the norm, they aren’t in college for very long.
Even if you plan to go the online university route, it is a good idea to check out the school before applying. Many online universities now offer virtual open houses, allowing you to see exactly how the admissions process will work and receive an overview of the available programs. This open house will also allow you to speak with members of the faculty and past students, so that you can make sure that this type of learning is right for you. You would not sign up for a traditional university without visiting it first and online universities should not be any different
Seek Out Alumni
Talking to friends or family members about a college is a great way to learn a lot about a college. Many times you are only going to hear the great things about a college while on the tour or on their website. Ask former students what they loved and hated about the college. Likewise, if you do an overnight visit, ask current students this as well. They will be brutally honest with you. Knowing that the gym closes early on the weekends might not be a big deal, but at least it won’t be a surprise to you.
Finding the right college is a big deal and can be an overwhelming decision. By taking the time to figure out the important things that go into picking a college and then working to narrow down the list, you will be much happier at the college you end up choosing.