Determining which college or university to attend can be one of the first major decisions you make. In fact, the decision won’t just determine how and where you spend the next four years; it can potentially weigh heavily on how you spend the rest of your life. But before you can make that decision, you have to figure out which schools you even want to apply to! Here’s an essential how-to on selecting which schools are worthy of an application from you.
1. Find out what you’re interested in. College isn’t just a means to an employment end; it’s a time of learning and exploration. You don’t have to have your major picked out, but you should, at the very least, have a general field of interest outlined. Do you have aspirations of being a scientist, doctor, or engineer? Then look for schools with more prestigious science programs, like MIT or University of California-Berkeley. Or maybe you’re interested in the arts or politics? There are tons of schools out there with programs designed for the more liberal type, for example Amherst College or George Washington University. For those of you who aren’t quite sure what exactly it is that you’re interested in, head over to Admittedly, they’ll ask you a few simple questions and match you with your dream school!
2. Know your financial situation. Because tuition continues to rise, it’s important to have realistic expectations when it comes to paying for college. But that doesn’t mean you should be discouraged by the price tag of a school. If you find the school of your dreams, you should totally go for it, whatever the cost! And there are plenty of tools out there to help you figure out how you can pay for college and assist with finding scholarship opportunities. Our favorite, Niche, has a great scholarship search engine and can actually match you up with scholarships based on your interests!
3. Go for a visit! While researching schools on the web is definitely important, it can only get you so far when it comes to figuring what a school is really like. By actually traveling to a college, you can see for yourself what kind of neighborhood it’s located in and what student life might actually be like. And if you really want to get an inside scoop on a place, try meeting up with an alumni from your high school who might be attending the college. If no one from your high school is in attendance, we suggest heading back over to Niche to read reviews of colleges from the students who go there. This way you can get the unofficial version of what the college is all about!4. Determine a setting and size that’s right for you. College campuses come in thousands of shapes and sizes. However, there are a couple questions you can ask yourself to broadly determine the type of school you want to attend.
- Do you think you would prefer a city campus, or a traditional college campus? A School like New York University, for example, has a very different experience than a school like Texas State University. City schools usually have very driven and fast-moving environments rife with job and internship opportunities, while the classic college campus environments usually have large green spaces and that quintessential academic feeling.
- Do you think you would be more comfortable in a large lecture hall taking notes, or discussing class material one-on-one with your teachers and classmates? Many schools these days, like Yale University for example, strive to reduce class sizes, while a school like Rutgers University might have huge lecture hall classes offset with small group discussions.
- How important is a college’s lifestyle to you? Students more concerned with the transition from home-life to college-life might want to consider a school that provides a tightly-controlled and high-quality living experience. In fact, some colleges go all out to provide Disneyland like experiences, such as High Point University in North Carolina. This school offers services such as dormitory hot tubs and FREE ice cream. Seriously. And check out this list for a ranking of colleges with the highest quality of life.
5. Know your odds. Whether or not you get into a school is largely determined by three factors; grade point average, SAT and ACT scores, and extracurricular activities. While the effect of extracurricular activities on acceptance is hard to quantify, every school releases median SAT and ACT scores and GPAs for incoming classes. That means you can analyze your chances of admittance by checking out a schools statistics. Thankfully, College Mapper exists and can do all the statistical analysis for you just by entering in your GPA and test scores! This will allow you to thoughtfully and accurately pick reach, match, and safety schools to apply to.
As any guidance counselor will tell you – The amount schools a student should apply varies for every student. But follow these simple steps, and you’ll at least be on the path to attending the school of your dreams!
The GoEnnounce Team
Love our blog? Like us on Facebook to get all of our fun education tips!