One of the most important decisions you’ll make in your high school career is where you choose to go to college. No pressure or anything. A lot of huge things can go into your decision, like the cost of your multiple-year education and the size of your school. But in retrospect, I can think of many little things that actually matter to me more than the usual things one might consider.
1. Career and Advising Services: You might think you know what you’re doing, but along the way, you’re likely to change your major or shift your career goals a bit. That’s where your advising service comes into play. Although advising isn’t widely advertised during college tours, you might want to check out what a college’s current students think of its advising service before jumping to a decision.
Your college advisor’s knowledge and usefulness can range from the requirements for your major to how to get internships and post-grad jobs. Sometimes, advisors at a college might accidentally give you the wrong idea on what courses you’ll get AP credit for, or which classes require pre-requisites, but in the end, you’ll be held accountable for what you end up doing based on their ‘advice.’ Bottom line is, you’re better off checking out these services at the colleges you’re considering before making a final decision.
2. Scheduling: You’ll also want to check in with some current students on the difficulties of registering for courses, and how easy or hard it is to recover from mishaps (they happen, and you don’t want to be completely thrown off of your schedule based on a few flukes). Do classes close off fast? Is it easy to get on and off a waitlist for a class? Is it hard to make certain classes fit well with each other? Along the same lines of utilizing the advising resources your college offers, you’ll also want to see if your college allows credit towards your major for courses taken at other universities, as well as online classes. Most of the people I know have taken a class over the summer at a university near their home, and depending on their university, the college will or will not offer credit.
Sometimes, if the university does offer credit, they won’t count the class towards your GPA (something to consider if you’re thinking about taking a GPA booster class over the summer). Similarly, they may allow course credit and GPA points, but if the class is towards your major, it may still not be counted! Online classes are also easy to take over the summer if you think your time will be largely occupied with a job/internship because of the flexible hours, but it’s also important to check if your college allows you to receive credit for them.
3. Selection of Degrees: Find out the school’s selection of majors, minors, concentrations, certificates, etc. If you’re interested in a graphic design major but you got a full ride to a liberal arts college, you might want to think again. There may be some liberal arts colleges out there with fantastic graphic design programs, but there are also many tech schools that have much better, state-of-the-art facilities and funding for projects that you might miss out on at a college that doesn’t.
4. Reputation of Departments: I’m sure you’ve heard of schools being ‘known for’ their public health, computer science, or political science departments. If you’ve got your heart set on a specific major (or type of major, like the health sciences or government in general), you might want to check out how good those respective departments are at your school. While a university might be hailed for its rigorous core curriculum, it also might secretly be slacking in its psychology department.
5. Campus Opportunities: If you were heavily involved in extracurriculars in high school, chances are, you will be seeking out these same opportunities in college as well. And I’m not just talking about volunteering at the local hospital – find out if students at your prospective university actually enjoy (and feel like they’re getting something out of) serving on the student government or getting involved in the outside community. A lot of undergraduates are also interested in performing some kind of research at their university. Again, if the college is heavily underfunded, the process of finding something to do might be harder than it sounds.
Bottom line is, by talking to current students and engaging on campuses during your college visits (if you’re able to visit) couldn’t be more important. Figuring out these little things could enhance your college experience.