All across the country right now, high school juniors and seniors are asking, “What college is right for me?” And choosing that right place is a pretty major decision. You want to get it right, if possible, so that you do not end up unhappy your first year and then looking at going through the process of transferring to one that is more suitable for your need and wants. The following are several conversations you should have with yourself as you make your selection.
Question: “What are the admission requirements for the colleges I am considering?”
“The first task I have when putting together my list of possibles for the right college for me will be researching the admissions requirements of those I am considering.” There is no point in considering colleges with qualifications you don’t meet. If your GPA or ACT/SAT scores are significantly lower than what they publish as ideal, you need to cross that school off of your list. If it is really an attractive school, and you truly want to go there, then consider a school with less rigorous requirements, get a great GPA during your freshman year and then apply as a transfer student.
Question: “What type of college is right for me?”
“I need to reflect on my personality and my current high school situation and make some decisions about the type of college environment that will make me happy.”
Are you currently in a large or a small high school? If your high school is quite large, are you navigating your way well, both academically and socially? Can you take initiative and get the help you need, even though your classes are large and less personal? How about your social life? Have you managed to find a social niche of good and reliable friends? Are you involved in school activities, and do you enjoy taking leadership roles in those organizations? If your answer is “yes” to all of these questions, then a large school may be good for you. It will allow you to spread your wings even more, and you will probably flourish in that environment.
If, on the other hand, your school is smaller and you love the more intimate relationships you have with teachers, and you know all of the students in our class quite well, then you may want to consider a smaller school.
Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Extroverts tend to do well in larger schools; introverts tend to thrive in smaller schools.
Question: “The perfect college for me would be in what geographic location?”
“Do I want to go far away from home, or do I want to stay close by? Do I have a preference for climate or for specific types of outdoor activities?”
More than one student has chosen a college and later regretted that decision because of geographic location. Nothing is worse than a student who loves the sun and surf of California to choose a school in Michigan and experience a winter that refuses to end. Definitely looking at a transfer here. Other issues include going too far away and then experiencing “homesickness” without the ability to go home until Thanksgiving. Still others stay at home and regret doing so. The great thing about all of these mistakes is that they can be remedied. It is still preferable, however, to make a good decision in the beginning.
Question: “How do I know which college is right for me, given that I have not decided on a major yet?”
”I think I am interested in psychology or sociology but am not sure. The only thing I do know is that math and science are not for me. Maybe journalism – I just don’t know.”
If you have narrowed your career options down at all you are in luck. Most students know whether they are more science/math/technology oriented or more non-math, science, tech oriented. This will help significantly as you look at your options for schooling. You will want strong programs in your potential majors, and, fortunately, you will be able to find them – just do your research.
Question: “How much financial aid can I get and how much will I have to borrow to go to the school of my choice?”
“I know how much my parents can contribute, but I will have to find grants and loans for the rest, maybe a part-time job.”
If you know well in advance that you will need financial aid, then you can plan for it well in advance. Private colleges will usually offer a financial aid package based upon your academic record and your level of need. You will need to evaluate those packages against the higher costs of school there. State schools will process grants and loans for you – you may not get as much, but the costs will be far less. Just be certain that you have your plan in place before you make your final decision. If you are unsure, speak to a financial aid advisor and make certain that you can afford your choice.
If you have answered these questions with careful thought, you will be on your way to picking the right college for you.