Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Choosing the College for You!

College is a multi-faceted experience, a combination of academics, financial aid, social life, and so much more.  If you are in need of some help to decide which is the right school, we have compiled some factors to consider when choosing the college for you!

Identify your goals
Identifying what you want out of your education is one of the most important factors to consider in choosing the college for you.  Where do you see yourself in the future? What are your career goals? What enriches your life? If you are looking for specific training in a certain field, then you need to consider choosing a school with a strong program in your field.  A pre-professional education prepares you for a specific job and includes areas such as engineering and pre-med. Some schools like M.I.T. have very strong programs for those interested in the sciences but might not be right for someone interested in literature.  A liberal arts education, on the other hand, aims to equip you with general knowledge and reasoning skills suitable for many jobs.  Colleges can often be strong in certain areas, but perhaps a little weaker in others, so it is important to consider rankings of specific programs, and not necessarily just the school as a whole.
Speak to teachers and counselors. Your guidance and college counselors are specifically there to help recommend schools for your ability and interests.  If you can't stand the cold, it might be important for you to only consider schools down south; if you are interested in music, you may want to seek out schools with strong music performance programs; if you are looking for certain athletic scholarships, you may need to find the right school for your talents.  Your teachers and counselors can help you navigate this process to help you find your perfect fit.

Social life
College is not simply about academics; college is where you will be spending the next few years of your life, studying, living, and playing.  It is important to consider what type of city you are interested in living in, what kind of opportunities are available to you (including things like study abroad programs, research opportunities, financial aid, etc.), and what kind of social life exists.  Many colleges offer Greek life (sororities and fraternities).  For many, this is an excellent opportunity to meet new people, establish a network for years to come, and to get involved.  For others, Greek life can be overwhelming or take away from academics and other interests and may not be the way to go.  It is important to consider these factors in your consideration of “the big picture.” While a school may have strong academics, if you are unhappy otherwise, it may be advantageous to look to other schools as options.

Residential life
Similarly, it is important to consider where you will actually be living.  Finances are a big factor for many, especially in terms of paying for housing or rent.  Perhaps you may consider living at home if that option is available, perhaps dorm life is the way to go, or maybe you will choose to live off campus with a roommate.  Whichever route you choose, it is important to consider all of the implications, maybe living on campus will offer you more social life, maybe living off campus gives you more freedom, and maybe living at home is most cost-wise.

Attend college fairs or visit campuses
After taking all of these factors into consideration, it is important to try to visit college fairs and college campuses.  College fairs are events in which colleges will gather to offer prospective students information about their programs.  These fairs are great to help you see a variety of different programs and meet representatives from the different schools.  Visiting specific colleges allows students to see the campus in person; see the students, the facilities, and the location.  Often at college visits, students will also be able to meet with admissions coordinators to ask specific questions pertaining to the school, therefore making it a really great opportunity to see if you could envision yourself attending that specific school.

Once you have considered all of your options and developed a list of schools you are interested in, many counselors advise students to divide your colleges into three categories: schools that are a “reach,” ones that you have a reasonable shot getting into, and safety schools.  This ensures that you are reaching for your fullest potential while guaranteeing that you will be accepted to some great colleges that you can choose to attend.

If you ever have any questions about specific schools or anything about college more generally, please feel free to reach out to us! We are your College Success Coaches here to ensure you have the most successful college career possible.

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