We’ve reached that time of year, when students hit overwhelm mode during their search for the perfect college. Choosing where to go to college is a big decision, and likely also one of the first major independent decisions a young person makes in life. Go Financial Aid recognizes the magnitude of this choice, and we realize that aspects like finances, your parents’ alma mater and other things certainly come into play during the decision-making process. But ultimately, your college of choice depends on what feels right for you.
Actually settling on a school is about the last step in the college preparation process. What follows is some simple advice for choosing where to go to college. Each aspect is important, so consider them all.
1. What do you want to study, and how do schools measure up? If you are lucky enough to already know the answer to this question (and there is no shame if you don’t—lots of students start off undecided), be sure to take into account the quality of your academic program at different schools (if undecided, think about the quality of schools in general). Do you live in PA and want to pursue a degree in education? Slippery Rock is well-known for their superb education program.
2. What do you prefer—a large or small campus? Rural or urban? Figure out what setting suits your personality, or what will be most comfortable for you. If, for example, you value one-on-one attention and easier accessibility to professors, consider a smaller, rural campus. Class sizes tend to be smaller, and professors have more open office hours to discuss course work and extra help opportunities.
3. Make a list of schools that fit you criteria, in the state or region you wish to study in. This writer, 6 years ago when deciding on where to apply (whoa, feeling kind of old now), started with a list of 100 schools! Truth be told, the search range in this case spanned from Pennsylvania to California, as Theater was the original major of choice (two majors later, Communications ended up winning out!). Realistically, let’s aim for 10 schools to initially consider. When you have those 10 (or fewer, if you have a clear idea of what you want), see how they each measure up to what you are looking for in a school. When all is said and done, hopefully you end up with a list of 3-5, which will be the schools you apply to.
4. Be Realistic. This is where you have to consider yourself and your performance level. No one ever really wants to rate themselves, but odds are that if you consider yourself to be an average student, Harvard or Yale shouldn’t be on your list. Think about your grades throughout high school, your standardized test scores, and whether you put your best foot forward throughout school so far (if not, this likely has reflected in your grades). The schools that appear on the aforementioned list should be in line with what you believe you are capable of. But, if there is a school you believe you have a borderline chance with—go for it. It’s quite common for students to have at least one “reach school”—the one they hope for but recognize the gamble they are taking—and it shows confidence when you take that plunge.
College is both difficult and rewarding. If you want to get the most out of the experience academically and otherwise, seriously think about the above points when making you college selection. Questions? Check out the solutions center for help from the experts!