So it’s time to start picking out colleges. This is exciting and scary at the same time! You will soon enter a whole new period of your life, when you will likely be living in a different place with people you’ve never met.
Of course, you’ve heard of a number of prestigious schools that you could potentially apply to. But how do you decide which ones are right for you?
Think about your deal breakers
What are some characteristics your college absolutely has to have? For me, I knew I wanted a big, urban school. So all of the schools in rural areas and/or with only a few thousand students were immediately knocked off my list. This realization helped me to substantially narrow my college search. But perhaps certain academic or athletic programs are most important to you and things like size and location aren’t necessarily deal breakers. Everyone’s deal breakers will be a little bit different.
Research: find out the key information about the school
Find out the city and state in which the school is located. Is it urban, suburban, or rural? Every city is different. What is this specific city like?
The size of the student population heavily influences the atmosphere at the school. It affects everything from class sizes to partying to sporting events.
Student Body Demographics
What is the male to female ratio? What is the racial make-up? What states or countries are most students from? These questions can go on and on. Every student body is unique.
Acceptance Rate, Average SAT Scores, Average GPA
It’s important to be realistic with yourself. Acceptance at most colleges throughout the country grows more and more competitive each year. If you think it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll get in, don’t keep the school on your list.
It’s also good to know this information so you can categorize which schools may be safeties for you. It’s important to have a back-up plan in case your top choice schools reject you.
General Education Requirements
Do you want to mainly focus on classes related to your major? Or do you want to keep studying a variety of subjects because you are unsure of what you like best? Different schools have different requirements. Make sure you take these into account when choosing colleges.
Majors and Minors
What kinds of programs do they have for subjects you are interested in? An amazing department for your desired major could be a deal maker.
Student Life: Research, Study Abroad, Sports, Clubs, Organizations
Are you very interested in medical research? Do you need to go to Spain your junior year? Is belonging to a sorority or fraternity important to you? Check out the kinds of opportunities that are available on campus.
Je ne sais quoi
You can’t learn everything about a school by just researching the cold, hard facts. Look up the student newspaper. The kinds of stories they cover can tell you a lot about the general atmosphere on campus and the kinds of issues students care about.
Talk to current students. Perhaps alumni of your high school attend the college and you can communicate with them through social media. Ask the questions that you can’t find answers to on the college’s website. Find out what life there is really like.
The general feeling when you step foot on campus can really change your perspective of a school. Of course, not everyone can fly back and forth across the country to see every college on their list. But try to visit the colleges that you are most highly considering and the colleges that are fairly close to where you live.