There are over 4,000 colleges in the United States. That’s a lot of options for where you could spend the next two, four, or more years. We know that can be overwhelming and downright stressful, but also exciting! That’s why we’ve picked out a few things to think about in your search to find the best college for you.
First off, you need to understand what’s important to you. Make a list of the qualities you want in a school. Do you want one with a specific program? What does your dream school look like? Write down your priorities and must-haves to help you narrow your choices. Chat with your school counselor to explore options, and talk it out with your parents and friends.
Lead your search with your goals in mind. You’re going to school to learn. Whether your goals are to get a liberal arts degree, become a journalist, or start your career in law, keep that in mind when selecting your school—some schools are stronger in some areas than others.
Next, decide, does location matter to you? Do you want to stay close to home? Is there a specific city that interests you? Choose a few locations that you would like to be and research some options. Sometimes choosing a location that is out of your comfort zone is a great way to learn about yourself and expand your horizons.
Size matters too. Sometimes students prefer smaller schools, while others like a larger student body setting. Which do you prefer? Small schools often provide a more intimate setting, but larger schools often have more options and a larger variety of programs.
If you’re not sure, visit! The best way to know what a college is like is to experience it firsthand. Set up a time to sit on a class in a subject that you’re interested in, take a tour, go to the dining hall, meet some of the students and ask their experience. You’ll learn a lot about the atmosphere and campus culture. The brochure and website can only tell you so much!
Don’t be afraid of the price tag. Yes, college is expensive, but there are ways to make it more affordable. Most importantly, make sure you submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Next, start the scholarship search and start early! A common misconception is that there are only scholarships for high school seniors and college students when in fact, there are programs like the Discus Awards that feature scholarships available to high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors, AND seniors! However, the Discus Awards is just one of many programs students can earn scholarships through. Through scholarship search engines like Fastweb or scholarship lists like the Best List of College Scholarships, you can access information about more than $3 billion of scholarships and find the programs that fit you best.
Go with your gut. Don’t choose a college because of the name, the rank, or because someone else thinks you’ll like it. Select the college or university that you feel is the best fit. It’s worth spending the time to make sure you’re making the right choice.