Nearly everything we do in high school is focused towards one goal: getting into college. Grades, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities: all of us know how important all these factors are in our college applications. But what most of us don’t know is what colleges are right for us.
Knowing what colleges are a good fit for you is just as important as your grades, test scores, etc. Ideally, you would be spending at least four years of your life at college, so it’s important to make sure that you feel comfortable and confident at whichever college you choose to attend.
Know What You Want
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There are over 5,000 colleges in the US today open to applications, so how do you know where to start? It’s a good idea to begin this process in sophomore or early junior year, so you have time to create your list. Begin by first identifying what you want in a college.
Some factors to consider are:
Location - Where would you want to go to college?
Take into account the weather, nearby cities or opportunities, and the distance from home. You’ll find that your location preference will narrow the college pool greatly.
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Proximity - Would you prefer a rural or urban college setting?
Urban colleges would be close to major cities and most likely be much bigger with a greater student body. Rural colleges aren’t as close to major cities but they typically have fewer students, making class sizes smaller.
Extracurricular activities - What type of clubs or activities would you want the college you attend to offer?
Those who enjoy volunteering may require their college to have a volunteer organization, or other students may want their college to offer extra activities that relate to their chosen major. Sports are also a major factor in what students may want in a school. If you are an athlete, it would benefit you to find schools that have a strong emphasis on your chosen sport.
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Tuition - Do you want to go to a private school or a public school?
Public, state-funded schools often cost much less than private institutions, yet they may not offer everything you would want. Take tuition fees into account when looking for possible schools.
These are just a few of the many factors to consider when determining which colleges are a good fit for you. Some other things to consider: student body size, competitiveness, legacy, or anything else that is important to you in a college.
Compile A List of Colleges
Once you know what you are looking for in a college, build a list of colleges that meet your needs. A good starting point is to find about 10-20 colleges that could possibly be a good match for you.
A great resource to find statistics for a university is using Common Data Set
. Common Data Set shows stats for different criteria such as population size, student-to-faculty ratio, and other academic related data such as average GPA and SAT scores. Common Data Set is a good way to determine if a certain university meets your population and class size requirements and how well of a chance you have of admittance.
After you compile a list of colleges that fit your requirements, begin researching those colleges. Learn as much as possible about your prospective college options to figure out which ones would be best for you.
Aim for having a solid list of 6-10 colleges that you can imagine yourself attending by the end of junior year. How fast you narrow your list down depends on how much time you have until you begin applying for college.
As part of the process to narrow down your list to your top schools, it’s also a good idea to visit colleges if possible. No amount of research can give you as much information about a college as a visit can, so be sure to visit as many colleges as possible!