Picking out a college can be really, really difficult. Creating a checklist, or a wishlist, can be helpful in narrowing down the prospective choices. Here, then, are a few suggestions for what you should include!
Location, Location, Location
If you grew up in the city of Rochester and love the city environment, you may not want to go to a rural school that has nothing for miles in any direction. Maybe you’ve spent your entire life in the country, and are ready to move into the suburbs! Whatever your background, you probably have some idea about what living environment you want to try out, and college is a great time for that. I picked my undergraduate college partially based on the beautiful campus and the fact that it was right on a beautiful lake, but sometimes I felt as if I were missing out on the opportunities being in a bigger city would have provided.
Whether you were from a class of 500 or 28, you probably had feelings about your class size. If you enjoy, or think you’d enjoy, the personal attention that comes with a small college, prepare yourself to be in classes that may have fewer than five people in them. The upside of a small school is that you get to really interact with your professors and your peers, and what opportunities there are you can easily take advantage of. The downside is that there are only so many people on your campus, and diversity may not be at a maximum. Smaller schools may also have fewer opportunities available, but if you are proactive chances are you can find someone on the campus who will help you achieve what you’re looking for. While your classes will be smaller, there will also be less variety to choose from. You’ll also be held accountable to a degree that you aren’t in larger schools. In a larger school, you get the experience of traditional college life. There are tons of activities, clubs, and classes to be experienced, and if you miss a class every once in a while you’re just another face in the crowd, so who will really know? The downside to the big school is that your professors will probably not know you, many of your tutorials and classes will be taught by TAs, and when it comes to getting a reference from a professor it can be difficult to find someone who really knew you or your work.
It’s All About the Program
Even if you aren’t sure right now what you’re planning to major in, it’s important to choose a school that offers programs that correspond with most of your potential interests. Being undecided isn’t a bad thing, but you’ll want to explore lots of different options in order to make your decision as educated as possible. If your interests are extremely varied and you’re really uncertain, it might be worth considering taking a year at community college to make some decisions. The nice thing about community colleges is that they offer a lot of programs in things that correspond directly with careers, such as nursing or teaching. Even if you fall in love with a school, it has to have the right programs available to make it worth the investment.
Nobody wants to talk about money, but when it comes to your college education it is extremely important. Check out what kinds of funding opportunities your choice schools offer, and be sure to address money with the admissions counselor. Maybe a private school would be just as affordable as a public school after funding, or even cheaper! You should also have an idea of how much debt you’ll be in when you finish. Believe me, you do not want to find out you’re 50,000 dollars in debt on graduation day!
There may be some extracurricular activities that you’re really invested in. Whether it’s debate team or marching band, you don’t have to quite once you enter college. A great way to narrow down your top choices is to look at what they offer as far as extracurriculars. Maybe one school has a championship marching band, while another doesn’t. As long as your decision is based on more than the extracurriculars, there’s no reason they can’t play a role in your final decision!
What are some other things you think should be considered when choosing a college?