As someone who had no sense of direction, future, or realism when first starting my college search in high school, I can attest that it can be a little confusing knowing where to start. Here’s a few things to consider before you begin!
Do you have any idea of what you want to major in during college? The first place to start is figuring out what schools have programs that you’re interested in. It’s even a good idea to have a fallback major just incase you change your mind throughout the college process, so you want to make sure you pick a school that has a lot to offer to you. Next, if rankings are important to you, you can check out how well your school’s programs stand up to other universities. You can also look at the percentage of students that end up graduating from the university rather than dropping out or transferring.
Location, Location, Location
How big of a difference would it make for you to go to a school in the mountains, city, or on the coast, or does it make a difference at all? Do you want to go to an in-state or out-of-state school? Are you more of a country or city person? Do you like the closed-off college campus feel, or do you mind if you college’s buildings are spread out over a large area? Are you planning on living on-campus or commuting? All of these questions are things you’ll want to account for when deciding where you’ll find your college niche. You want to feel as comfortable as possible wherever you end up, and location can play a huge part in establishing an initial comfort-factor.
College is expensive. How much of a financial burden will it be for you? Would it be more financially applicable for you to go to an in-state school or even start out at a community college to get your gen-eds out of the way? There are many ways to go about making the college process cheaper if you know money is going to be an issue. When looking at any school, it’s a good idea to talk to the financial aid department to see where you stand and how much loans/grants/scholarships are going to cover versus how much you’re going to be paying out-of-pocket.
This is a big one if you’re very actively involved in a sport, team, or hobby, especially if you’re looking to enter college on scholarship for the activity. If this is your case, you’ll want to seek out colleges that have teams or clubs for whatever it is you do. Before you apply and make a commitment to an extracurricular, ask yourself what level of dedication you’re willing to put forth to the activity in college, and to what extent you want to be involved. Do you want to do something competitively, or is being part of a club enough for you? It’s all a matter of personal preference.
Once You’ve Considered the Big Four…
Make a list of your top 5-10 choices and continue doing more in-depth research on those schools. If you can, try to visit or tour as many as those schools as possible to see which one might suit you best. Research more about the program you’re looking into, and start narrowing down your list until you have a top three.
On A Final Note
Remember that regardless of any friends, family, or significant others say, your college decision is up to you, and your future is in your hands. (But of course, if you have others supporting your education financially and emotionally it’s still important to take their opinion into account.) Remember that you also must be realistic during your college search. Unfortunately, not everyone is fit for an Ivy League school, and not everyone can afford a hundred-thousand dollar private school. (But if you have big dreams and a means to make them happen, go for it!) Take note of your strengths and weaknesses and use them to your advantage during your college journey.
When thinking about all of these initial factors, it’s okay to be a little nervous. What’s important is that you’re on your A-game and ready to go out, do some research, visit some schools, and take the college admissions process by storm!