Begin by making a list of your non-negotiable items.What do you absolutely need in a college that you’re not willing to compromise on? This could be anything from a certain type of study to a larger school campus. Keep in mind, however, that this truly should be a non-negotiable aspect for you. It’s important not to limit your search and stay open to possibilities if you are able. Also, don’t limit yourself just to narrow down choices because you think you need to - those decisions will inevitably come later.
What do you want in a college?Think about what’s important to you in a college from a general aspect. Upon reflection, what types of features are most important to you?
Consider the Following:• Campus and Class Size
• Location and/or Distance from Home
• Majors, Courses of Study and Job Training
• Study Abroad Programs and Opportunities
• Internship Opportunities and Job-Placement Programs
• Tuition Affordability and Graduation Debt Rates
• Housing Options
• Student Body
• Student Life
• Extracurricular Activities
Do any of these features stand out as more or less important to you? Begin with the factors you consider most important, eliminating schools that don’t meet your criteria. Move on to the next important aspect and continue the process until you've finished with the list. Also, consider your educational goals. While many students are unsure of what they want to study, you may have an idea of what you’d like to accomplish. If so, consider if the schools you’re considering can provide a strong background in your area of study.
Don’t assume anything.As you’re going through your options, don’t assume you know what you need or want. For example, if you’re quiet or shy, you may feel you’d do well in a smaller school. However, a larger school may be just what you need to bring out your personality and give you more opportunities to meet new people. This brings us to our next step:
Ask around.Sometimes, it’s easier for others around you to recognize what you need before you’re able to on your own. Talk to friends, family members, guidance counselors and teachers to see in which type of environment they picture you thriving.
Don’t count schools out for no reason!If you haven’t applied, then you have absolutely no reason to say you are not able to attend that particular school. Expenses and admission difficulties are realities, however, they may be resolved through financial aid and you never know where you’ll be admitted until you apply. Try first, figure out the logistics later!
Research, research, research.Now that you've narrowed down your list to potential schools, learn more about them. Check out their web sites, ask school counselors and teachers and contact the school’s admissions department for more information. Learn as much as you possibly can about the school, noting any questions that come up along the way. Try to get all of your questions answered so that you are able to weed out and cross off any schools that may have aspects that did not meet your expectations.
Visit.If you are able, plan a visit to your front-runners. One of these schools will potentially become your home for the next four years! You wouldn't buy a home without touring it, would you? A visit may make a huge difference in your decision-making process.
Don’t forget…As mentioned in the beginning of this article, you will likely flourish at many different schools. There is not one “right” or “wrong” school for you. Most likely, if you follow the simple guidelines above you are bound to end up at a school that suits your lifestyle and personality well, where you can grow into developing a successful career path.
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