What College Is Right For Me? | 4 Important Factors To Consider
Whether you’re a current Senior in high school or an underclassman who has a college education in their future, the question “What College Is Right For Me?” eventually crosses your mind. And while that is not an easy question to answer for most students and parents, narrowing down your choices based on a few important factors is the key to choosing the right college that fits you!
Today, we’re going to outline 4 factors that should go into your college selection process and explain them in some detail. After finishing this article, our hope is that you will gain a greater insight as to what things are important, and which aspects are a little less important.
Let’s get started…
Which College Is Right For Me?
If you are a current senior who has applied and (hopefully) been accepted to a few schools already, the question “What College Is Right For Me?” is a little more urgent than if you were in your Sophomore or Junior Year. By now you have a pretty good idea of why you applied to the colleges that you did, and have narrowed down your choices based on being accepted, or getting denied.
Regardless of your grade level in high school, listed below are 4 important factors to consider when figuring out which college is right for you.
1. Campus Visit
First and foremost, we believe that the campus visit is the most vital piece to answering your question of “Which College Is Right For Me?”. And while you may be surprised that Cost of College isn’t tops on the list (more on that in a moment), it’s for a good reason. All of us here at CollegePrepU have worked with countless students and families in our careers as high school counselors, and our very first question that we ask a student when they are interested in a college is…”Have you visited yet?”.
It’s true. The campus visit is the number one determining factor of whether or not a student will have success at a given college or university. Think about it. If are unhappy and just do not like the campus life of the school you’re attending, what is going to happen to your grades and studies as a result? If you are just there because the school had a great reputation and cost a little less than others, you may end up costing yourself precious time and money by transferring or even dropping out!
Let’s use a recent experience with one of our students as an example here. This student had applied to a handful of colleges in the Midwest and was pretty indifferent about all of them. After looking at what she was planning on majoring in, we asked her why she didn’t apply to the University of Iowa. Well long story short, she visited the school that weekend, came back and couldn’t stop talking about how awesome the campus was and how much they had to offer when compared to the other colleges she’d applied to. She ended up attending Iowa that fall.
2. Location, Location, Location
Along the same lines as the “Campus Visit”, the location of the school is another factor that should be looked at in your decision. Here’s why..
If you are the type of person who is very family oriented or always need to have friends around, you need to take that into consideration in your college selection process. Think about that for a moment. If you’ve been accepted to a great college that is farther than a 5 hour driving distance from your home, will you be able to be away from family and friends for long periods of time? It’s really something to think long and hard about because you do not want to become so homesick that you are forced to leave school. It’s a very real and common thing that happens much more than people know, so take that into consideration if you won’t know anyone on campus your freshman year!
The other aspect to consider is the geographic location of your potential school. For instance, is your college located in a warmer climate or near a beach? If it is, you need to be prepared for the academic distraction that those types of atmospheres bring. Will you be disciplined enough to go to class, or are you easily swayed into skipping school to enjoy the weather and friends?
On the flipside of that, what if you plan on attending the University of Minnesota? Have you considered the long, hard winters that they experience up there? Walking to class in a snow storm will get old after the very first time you experience it. These may not seem like valid reason not to attend a specific college, but if you aren’t going to class, you will not do well and may end up back home before the end of your freshman year in college.
3. Degree Programs Offered
For many first year college students, it is a year filled with general education courses and if you’re lucky, maybe a class that pertains to the major that you’ve chosen. However, the proof is in the pudding (as they say). According to Penn State University, 80% of high school students entering college admit that they don’t know what they want to major in. In addition, and this is a big one, as much as 50% will change their major at least once! 50%!!! The article can be found here: Major Decisions
To put this in perspective, 1 out of every 2 of you reading this article will attend college and graduate with a different degree than you initially intended on majoring in. That’s a crazy statistic if you really think about it.
Our advice given this information is to select a school that has a wide range of degree programs that they offer a Bachelor’s Degree in. The reasoning is simple: There is a very good chance that you will be changing your major, so it makes sense to attend a school that has a lot of diversity in their academics. If you like the school and campus, your next task is to make sure that they have a number of degree programs that you could change majors to if you decide that your initial program is not right for you.
Doing this will avoid a loss of time, money and effort by having to transfer schools in order to pursue a different major. Bigger schools offer more academic programs, so keep that in mind when making your choice. If you are a small school type of student, try to narrow it down by area of interest instead of specific degrees. If you are planning on majoring in Biology, make sure you can go a few different ways with that if you feel the need to change. (Environmental, Nursing, Vet Studies etc)
4. Cost of College
Ok, finally we come to the cost of your college education. When trying to figure out “what college is right for me?”, you probably thought you’d be pointed in the direction of the least expensive school or close to it. However, it all comes down to that “right fit” school, regardless of what the pricetag is.
Newsflash: College isn’t cheap. You are going to pay for what you get, and in 99% of the cases, you will get what you pay for! Let’s say you are comparing 3 colleges of equal stature. You’ve visited their campuses and one stands out slightly above the other two. The only problem is that school’s pricetag is about $5,000 more per year than the other two.
Here’s where you really have to ask yourself: Is $20,000 in tuition (over the course of 4 years) worth NOT going to your top choice college in the long run? We understand that every family has it’s own agenda and financial situation. And, you may say “$20k is a lot of money”. That’s true, but you cannot put a pricetag on happiness and the overall experience that you’ll get going to your “dream school”. Going off to college is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and we truly believe that if the cost is relatively comparable, you should always opt for your top choice school.
”What College Is Right For Me?”….there won’t ever be a clear-cut answer to that question as everone’s preferences are different. But, we hope that you have a better idea of how to go about choosing a college.
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