There are plenty of good colleges. But just because a college is popular among your friends or highly ranked by a magazine doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.
Hanging out with your high school friends can be part of college, but it shouldn’t be the focus. Attending a college just for the comfort of your friends and the parties that will ensue is a quick path to dropping out. Similarly, just because a college has a prestigious basket weaving major doesn’t mean you will feel comfortable on campus.
To find the college that fits you must weight many factors. Here are five questions to ask when looking at potential colleges:
Do they have what I need? There are a couple of basic questions you should ask yourself when choosing a college other than “How many of my friends will be there?” First, ask yourself “What is my passion?” What are your future goals? If you want to be a writer look for schools with strong English and communications programs. If you want to be an engineer then a small liberal arts school may not have what you need.
What’s my size? Do you want to go to a big school or a small school? There are advantages and disadvantages to both. A big school can be intimidating and overwhelming, but it may offer more programs, options and opportunities. Smaller schools may offer more personal attention in the classes you take, but they may not offer as many majors. If you learn better with direct attention from a teacher then perhaps a smaller school is best for you. If you don’t mind the anonymity and enjoy seemingly endless resources, look into the larger schools.
What are my strengths? Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you find a school where you are more likely to succeed. Do you need study groups to be successful? Do you prefer alone time? Do you work better in large lectures or small discussions? Do you like tests or long-term projects? Find what a school emphasizes before you say yes.
What’s my address? Something that is important, yet often overlooked, is a school’s location. A big city offers an endless amount of fun and nightlife, but the campus may be spread throughout. Some schools in smaller towns are community anchors. Recreation activities at these schools are more focused around the university. Also, keep in mind the environment. Does the weather suit you? Too much heat or cold could make your school year miserable. You may want to look at schools in areas that suit your outdoor recreation needs. Not every school is located near hiking trails in the mountains or surf-friendly waves.
What’s plan B? Many students change their major once enrolling in college. Some even go through three or four areas of study. So before you commit to a highly specialized school be sure of your passions. You don’t have to decide on a major now. Giving leeway from the start of your college search could save headaches later. Examine more than one academic department at your school, and see what other areas of study interest you.