How to Pick the Right College

For many of you readers out there, the time to commit to a college is approaching rapidly. Picking the right college can lead you to having what could be the best four years of your life, while picking the wrong college can lead you to having a bitter taste in your mouth when you walk across the stage on graduation. The following are ten tips to help make sure you pick the right school for you.

  1. Make sure you visit plenty of schools. It is very important to visit a wide variety of schools. Even if you have your mind set on a school, still look around to make sure there aren’t any better options. Also, we would recommend visiting small, medium and large schools to see what style of campus and community suits you best.
  2. Make sure the schools you visit fit your budget. There is no worse feeling than falling in love with a school that is out of reach financially. If you are a sophomore or  junior in high school, first of all, good for you for searching for schools so early. Second of all, no matter what you hear from your peers, high school DOES matter. If you put the time and effort in now, you will receive better grades which will equate to a better scholarship. Also, take the time to take practice ACT or SAT tests so you can perform well on those, as many schools put a heavy weight on those when considering applicants and giving away scholarships. If you take the time and put the effort in now, you will get a handsome scholarship that just might put your dream school within reach.
  3. Make a list of the pros and cons of each school you visit. This is a very useful tool to help you compare and contrast various schools and what they offer. Take note of things such as price, location, places to eat on campus, extra curricular activities, school clubs, fitness centers, and whether they offer services such as free printing or free laundry. These things may seem insignificant in the short term, but when you are living on or traveling to school every day, the little things such as those previously listed make a world of difference.
  4. Take note of the parking situation on campus. This is more of an issue if you plan on commuting to school, rather than living on campus. College is very different from high school, in that classes are held at practically every time of the day. This means that you may not have a class until 1:30pm, when other students have been on campus since 8:00am. If you are one of those students that have a later class, parking can become a nightmare. My school has three very large parking lots and a three or four story parking garage, and I still constantly hear of commuters complaining of the lack of parking. More parking on campus will equate to less added stress during your commute, especially on those days when you are running late.
  5. Make sure you LOVE the campus. As superficial as this may sound, this is actually surprisingly important. As a resident, you will essentially be spending the next four to five years of your life on campus. Even if the academics and sports team are phenomenal, if you do not like the layout and physical appearance of your campus, it will feel like you’re in prison. Hmmm. Wait. Sports teams? That would make a pretty good sixth point, wouldn’t you say?
  6. Do research on their sports teams. This will only really apply to athletes, unless you are really into college sports. Check your school to see how their sports teams perform, and what sports are offered. Look at things such as the athletic facilities, weight training facilities, and other amenities for athletes. Also, make sure you meet with the coach for your sport, and try to meet with some of your future team mates and get to know them.
  7. Research the school itself. Do some research online to see how your prospective schools stack up in terms of academics and overall student satisfaction. There are numerous websites that rank schools, and there are also places online where you can read students personal experiences with various schools. Also, try to pick a school with a good reputation. This will not only catch the attention of potential employers on your job applications and your resume, but it give your degree a greater sense of value when you graduate.
  8. Create a list of your top three schools. Once you visit a good handful of schools, (I visited roughly twelve campuses), you will likely have a very good idea of what schools are a right fit for you, and what schools are definitely not right for you. At this point in time, make a list of your top three schools. Then, you can take a look at these three schools in greater detail, and really analyze and examine what they offer you. It would be beneficial to schedule additional campus visits, stay overnight, and attend “admitted student days” and other events such as that to get a better idea of what the campus is like.
  9. Try to picture yourself going there. While there truly is no way to do this without actually attending a school, it is crucial to try to picture yourself attending the school. Ironically, the school that I committed to and am currently attended is one I hated the first time I visited. I visited on a drab, dull and cloudy day, and my tour guide did not seemed enthused. However, I went back to campus on a beautiful day for an admitted student day, and it became clear to me that this was the school for me. As silly as it may sound, if a school “feels right” can really make a difference in your college experience, and when you do find the school that is a perfect match for you, you’ll know.
  10. Be proud of your decision! Once you finally do make a decision and commit to a school, take a deep breath and be proud! It is a long and timely process, but ultimately it is one of the biggest, (and most important), decisions you will make in your teen years. Do not take this decision lightly, and make sure you put the time in to making the right decision.

Your college experience will be what you make of it, and in many cases you get out what you put in. If you truly take the time to make a well thought out decision, you can look back at your college experience twenty years from now without a single ounce of regret.

Are you in the process of picking a college? What tips do YOU plan on utilizing to make sure you pick the right school for you? We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment and join the discussion!

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