The college search process can be daunting; it’s hitting the road ridiculously early in the morning, touring campuses with far too peppy tour guides, asking a million questions and trying to process the overwhelming amount of information about each school. Yet, after all the miles traveled, there is an indescribable feeling of happiness when you can confidently choose the college that will be your new home.
To make the process of finding the right school a little less stressful, here are a few key things to consider in your search:
10. Location and Distance From Home
Whether it’s a small school in the middle of a large city or a university that makes up most of a small town, choosing your school should go beyond the campus. There are benefits to small and large campuses and communities, so you will want to do your research to find out what it’s like to live there.
Another aspect to consider is how far away from home the college is. While it can be great to get away from your hometown, do factor in transportation and accessibility for times like holidays when you want to be with family. It is also perfectly OK to stay close to home. Often students are so busy with school and on-campus activities that home feels far enough away even if it’s just a few miles down the road.
9. Cost and Fees
The sticker price on most schools is not usually what a student will pay, especially regarding private colleges. Ask about financial aid and scholarship opportunities at the colleges or universities you are interested in. There are also many local scholarships and renewable scholarships available.
8. Class Size
Class size has a big impact on learning; there is a difference in having smaller discussion-based classes and big lectures with hundreds of students. Honestly consider which learning style works best for you as well as what type of relationship you want to have with your professors. Larger schools often have teaching assistants working with bigger classes.
7. Majors and Minors
Each school has a different curriculum design, so consider what you want to get out of the next four years. Are you hoping for classes very specific to one discipline or more diverse experiences? You’ll also want to find out which majors, minors and programs are offered at each school you’re considering.
6. Athletics and Extracurricular Activities
Whatever you plan on participating in, college is a time to explore new passions and develop old hobbies. The right school for you will have the opportunities to do both.
5. Campus Life
The school spirit and general atmosphere will set the tone for your experience. Ask important questions like “How many students live on campus?” or “What is there to do on the weekends?” These questions can give you a better sense of the college lifestyle. Each school has their own Residence Life program, so asking specifics about the residence halls or first-year programs will give you a good indication of the level of student involvement.
4. Academic Support and Career Services
How a college assists students with academics is an important factor in what kind of education you will be getting. Some schools offer little support and want to foster an environment of independence, while other schools offer options like free tutoring groups and writing assistance. Also knowing what the school’s placement rates are for jobs and postgraduate schools are critical to consider because it gives an indication about the success and depth of each program.
Not only is on-campus safety and policy a major factor when considering a school but also the safety of the surrounding area. What kinds of safety measures does the school have in place? What is the neighborhood like? Knowing the school’s policies and procedures concerning student safety can be useful in deciding whether or not it is the best fit.
2. Internships and Cooperative Education Opportunities
Having experience in the field you are interested in is not only valuable for future careers but also a great way to discover your passions and expand your network. Check out the internships, hands-on experiences, research and study abroad opportunities the school provides.
The most important factor when considering a college is how the school made you feel. Regardless of all the programs, opportunities and scholarships, the school you choose should feel like home, a place where you will be able to grow and develop not just academically but in all aspects of life. The right college will foster an environment that will challenge you but also help you to realize your dreams and goals by providing you with the tools that will remain with you for the rest of your life.
Alisha Knutson '17 is an exercise science and psychology double major at Concordia.