Finding the right college may be one of the hardest decisions of your life, or maybe not. Everyone is different; some people have their heart set on a college since sixth grade and may already be prepping cool college gear for years before they even get there. Some people decide where they want to go a week before college decision day. Whenever you decide… just make sure it is not the day before college decision day. I’m not saying that because it is bad to procrastinate (trust me, I am a huge procrastinator myself), but because it is vitally important to realize how critical the college selection process really is. There are a few points on your checklist you should add when looking for colleges, and I am going to tell you them now, so you do not end up picking your college the day before college decision day.
Back to Basics
First off, if you do not have any clue where you want to go, that is okay! Do not panic. There are plenty of tools out there on the Internet that will help you narrow 51,000 colleges worldwide to about 10 or so. I’m sure you are all familiar with the College Board. If you are not, College Board is a great online tool to review your SAT and ACT scores. Great memories, right? Other than that, College Board actually has a great tool you can use to search for colleges. So, if you are not sure what to even start looking for within a college, start there. All you have to do is answer some questions about the size of the college you want, location, potential majors, cost, and a few more… and bam! You have an organized and customized list of colleges just for you! Here is the link to College Board’s College Search: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college-search
Pros and Cons
So now that you have a list of plenty of colleges, it is time to start digging a little bit deeper. Start visiting the college websites and see what other information you can find out about it! Does the campus look nice? Is it dark and gloomy? Even try looking up some YouTube videos. I found that looking up YouTube videos was actually one of the most helpful search tools because I got to hear student opinions of the college. Also, Google-search some photos of the college to see what comes up; that’s always a fun way to find some surprises. After you have done all this extra searching, make a pros and cons list. Making a pros and cons list helps you to really organize all of the thoughts in your head and help you clearly make a choice about what colleges to eliminate from your list. As cliché as it might sound, you would be surprised how much this helps.
Here comes the fun part… COLLEGE VISITS! Okay, okay, sitting through college tours might not be the first thing you would want to do on a Saturday, or even your spring break. But let me tell you, once you find your college, you won’t want that tour guide to stop talking! (I mean you might get hungry sooner or later, but you know what I mean). I cannot stress enough how important it is to visit colleges of interest. Getting the right feel for a college is probably the most important part of the college process. Without knowing how you truly feel on a college campus, then how will you know if you are going to be able to spend four years there? Make the effort. Go on a road trip. Take some friends. Take a plane if you have to, but make sure you go on that visit. Oh, and after your first round of visits, go for a second round of visits after eliminating some colleges after the first visit. Speaking from experience, sometimes when you visit a college for the second time you realize different things than from when you went the first time. This second visit could help you realize whether you absolutely love this school, or help you realize it is not your cup of tea. Trust me, it is worth it.
The “perfect” college is out there for you… sort of. Well, as we know, perfect does not exist. There might be aspects about your college that you do not like. Maybe it is something bigger than that, and that is where compromising comes into play. You might fall in love with a college, but the out-of-state price may be holding you back. There might a college really similar to the one you love with an in-state price. Sometimes you have to compromise, and that is okay.
Lastly, if you are going to take anything away from this blog post, let it be that this process is more important than you think, and you can do it. But you have to get in the driver’s seat. You will have to spend the next four or so years at this college, and trust me, you will not want to feel miserable or homesick for the time being. Take the time, put in the effort, and find your dream college. (And, worst comes to worst, it is not the end of the world if you have to end up transferring colleges to find your perfect fit.)