Deciding where to go to college is often one of the first major life decisions a teenager will make, mainly on their own. With thousands of options available and often immense pressure, picking the right college for you can feel like an impossible task. If that sounds familiar, or if you are looking for some help in your decision-making process, we put together a list of 5 tips for picking the right fit college for you.
Tip #1: Consider what you are interested in academically and what you might want to major in.
Not all colleges offer the same majors, and the courses and majors offered by schools can vary dramatically. Therefore, before researching specific colleges, we suggest coming up with a few options of potential majors or areas of interest you might want to consider. Then you can start by researching which colleges offer degrees or courses in that area.
Tip #2: Location, Location, Location.
This one may be obvious to some, but the location of a college is a critical factor in evaluating where you will spend the next four years. If you want to attend a school out of state or across the country, it is vital to consider the added cost of traveling to and from school. Some colleges, like New York University, are in an urban setting where students will experience the rush of a big city. Other colleges, like the University of Wisconsin, are located in a rural area where the small town is integrated into the school’s culture. Don’t just think about how far away the college is from you; also research the surrounding area. Is it a big city or a small town? How close is it to the nearest airport if you have to fly? Are there direct flights?
Tip #3: Think in terms of COA
COA, or cost of attendance, is the total amount a student will have to pay to go to a school. It includes tuition, housing costs (room & board), books and other course supplies, travel, and other personal expenses. Tuition is most often the largest of those categories, but the others can be easily overlooked and potentially make attending some schools too expensive. As mentioned above, attending a school across the country will increase the COA if you plan to fly to and from school. Also, going to a school like NYU will mean a student will have to pay New York prices when buying food or doing anything in the city.
Tip #4: Research the campus community.
The courses and academic experience at a college are only part of the picture. For most students, you will be immersed in the on-campus and surrounding community for the next four years. We recommend researching and learning as much about each school’s community as possible. Some questions to ask are: Do most students live on campus or off? How long do students typically live on campus? We recommend thinking about what kind of community you want to be a part of and what kind of activities and events you’re interested in. Look for colleges that offer clubs, organizations, and events that align with your interests.
Tip #5: If possible, pay a visit to campus before deciding.
Visiting a college’s website, reviewing its promotional materials, and researching the school online can be very useful for you to gain a basic understanding of what that school offers. Though if possible, the best way to get a sense of what attending a school will feel like is to visit the campus in person. Nearly every school offers campus tours, prospective student information sessions, or even opportunities to sit in on a class. For those who have the means, this is a great way to get a true sense of campus life.
Choosing the right college for you is an important decision. And at the end of the day, only you know what will be best for you. When going through your college search process, it is essential to consider your academic goals and interests, the location of each school, the total cost of attendance, and the campus community. Deciding where to spend the next four years of your life (and possibly a significant amount of money) is a daunting task, but we believe each student can find the right fit school for them.