SizeWhile it is important to determine your ideal campus size, a complete college search should include at least one large school, one moderately sized campus, and one small school. This enables you to personally experience multiple options.
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When you are first compiling your list, plan to visit a school in an urban environment, a rural college or university, and a school that is so large that it is essentially its own city.
LocationThis checklist item can help parents and students set clear search parameters in a number of ways. Is there a maximum distance from home that you are willing to go?
Would you be comfortable if you were unable to travel home for a weekend, a holiday, or the entire school year?
Certain students are much happier closer to home, while others apply internationally without concern. Whatever your outlook, establish clear guidelines early in your search.
Research proximity to nearby cities. It’s also important to consider a school’s proximity to a metropolitan area.
This may affect your transportation options, access to on- and off-campus housing, whether you will be near other colleges and universities, etc.
Again, when you are first researching institutions, it is important to consider a wide swath of potential experiences, even if you already have a sense of what you would prefer.
MajorCheck that each school offers majors you’re interested in.
If you have an idea of what you may be interested in studying (though this is not a requirement for a successful college search), you should ensure that the schools on your list offer this major.
Check for categories and departments, too.
This may seem intuitive, but it is important to verify even the broadest of categories and departments.
Browse the catalog for next semester’s classes — it is necessary to be academically interested in the available courses.
Clubs and SportsDouble check that each school offers activities you’re interested in.
If there is an activity that you plan to continue or join, check that each school on your list offers it.
Find out if you can make it available if it isn't already.
If the activity is not present, contact the admissions office to inquire about establishing it, or research its availability in the community.
College is a time to explore exciting and unfamiliar experiences, but if you cannot participate in the pastimes you love, you will likely be unhappy.
Financial AidInvestigating financial aid can be a frustrating—but crucial—part of the search process. Meet with financial aid officers when you visit each school.
Gather important details regarding financial aid at each school.
While financial aid is hardly entertaining, if you are considering a college or university well beyond what you can afford without financial aid, you should gather as many details as possible as soon as possible.
Visit as many schools as possible.
The college search process can be stressful, but you can never visit too many schools.
If you visit a school and dislike it, great! You can now compare what you like in an institution with what you do not.
This is important, useful information that can aid you in the discovery of the type of college you will thrive at as a student.
Andrea Deck is a professional GRE tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She is a graduate student at Columbia University in the class of 2015.