These days there is more pressure than ever to make the right choice for college. At times this decision can feel overwhelming but it’s important to remember that every graduating high school student who is considering college has experienced the exact same thing.
Here are a few tips to help you find the perfect college for you:
● Decide why you’re applying
● Write a list of goals
● Visit campus
● Think about your career
● Compare financial aid packages
Decide — Why Are You Applying to College?
College isn’t for everyone. Before you make one of the most important choices of your life, you’ll want to be honest with yourself about why you want to go to college. Do you have a dream career in mind? Are you looking to get life experience in a different part of the country or the world? Or maybe you want to continue pursuing sports and build a strong social network?
A degree is more than a piece of paper. It’s an important life step and a very consequential decision. There can be many good reasons for going to school, and indeed college can be one of the best investments you make, but you need to recognize why you’re doing this now and what a college education means to you personally.
Once you recognize your motivations, it can be easier to choose the perfect school for you and set some goals to get the most out of your experience.
Write a List of College Goals
It can be helpful to have a list of your goals handy as you progress on your college journey. You’ll be learning a lot through classes and extracurricular activities, and most likely you’ll be changing goals here and there. This happens to almost everyone.
Having a list and keeping in mind what you want to do can help you get the most out of the experience. Your list can include things like getting an A in a particular course, completing major qualifications, or more soft skills related things like starting a study group to meet new friends.
Visit Campus to Find the College Thats Right for You
Nothing can replace a campus visit for learning what college life is truly all about. Many universities offer overnight stays and extended visits with current college students to give you an idea of what life is like. If you end up choosing that school, these student contacts will be an excellent contact and may be able to offer homework help or networking opportunities.
There are many different types of schools. Life on urban campuses will be drastically different from rural campuses. Some schools put a big focus on social engagements and sports events while others focus more on scientific research or preparing you for a career. There’s no right answer for which school is best. What matters is whether or not these different opportunities appeal to you, and the only way to know this for sure is to go visit the campus and experience it for yourself.
Think About Your Career Goals
What do you want to do after college? Would you like to go to grad school, or pursue a career? It may feel like it’s a little bit too early to be asking those questions, and you can always change your mind, but it’s good to ask yourselves these questions before embarking on the college journey.
Some schools have stronger programs in science or math, while others excel in liberal arts education. The size of the school will be a factor here as well. Do you benefit from one-on-one attention, or are you more comfortable making your voice heard in a large class? Some schools also offer on the job training programs which can help launch your career while still pursuing your degree.
For example, if you’re thinking of pursuing pre-med studies, you’ll want to find a school with a strong selection of courses and supportive professors in this area to set yourself up for success when applying to medical schools. Similarly, schools with a strong journalism program can set up with a network of contacts that will be useful if you pursue a career in media. The important thing to remember is that your college decision now can help your career long after you’ve graduated.
Does Your College Offer Financial Aid?
The financial picture is an important thing to consider when applying to schools. What kind of financial aid package is the school offering? Will you need to take out loans to make up the difference? If you’re taking out loans, you’ll eventually have to pay them back. Based on your salary this can be difficult, but not impossible. It’s just one more piece of information you’ll want to have available when making your decision.
Another important factor can be the cost of living in the area where you’ll be living. Universities in major metropolitan areas like New York City and Los Angeles tend to have higher costs of living than a school in a small midwestern town, for example.
If you plan on renting an apartment off campus, this can be a major factor. For this reason, some students opt to go to commuter schools nearby and avoid the added cost of living expenses. This can be a savvy move and is worth considering if you have a school you’re interested in nearby.
Don’t let money be the only motivation for making the decision between two colleges, but it should be a factor.
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