Planning your education and choosing a career are among the most important things you will do in your life. College shouldn’t be just another thing you have to do after high school. Instead, it should serve as a crucial steppingstone in your life. It is a key opportunity to plan for a great way start to adulthood.
Set your criteria
At the very beginning, you should set the most important criteria that will help you better define the type of college you want to attend. Once your list has around ten hand-picked colleges, you should add further criteria that will help you to gain a better insight into what works best for you. You don’t need to have a list of one hundred rules where your ideal college must check all of these boxes. But you should have a handful of the essential rules or “must haves” for the school you want to attend. These rules might include aspects such as academic reputation and what kind of majors a particular college has to offer. Another important criterion is related to how easy it is to find a job after graduation; in other words, what are the job placement rates.
Visit the campus
Another good idea on how to choose a college that will best suit you is to visit the campus. The goal behind this is for a student to experience the campus as if they were already a student. Many colleges organize special visiting days for potential students, usually in the spring or the summer. They also organize special events that better help students to find out what campus life looks like. These special events serve to show future students only the highlights of the campus and the aspects of student life they want to advertise. To have an even better sense of what goes on on an average campus day. Visit the campus on random days. Feel free to take the campus tour. But before or afterward talk to as many students as possible so you can have the first-hand information.
Find a quiet place, avoid distractions and focus. Now think about what you really want and what kind of college would be right for you. Get input from friends and family. They should not be deciding for you and so take their advice as just that. However, these are the people closest to you, who presumably have your best interests at heart and may see things about you that you miss in the mirror.
If you still find yourself struggling, many useful guides help provide in-depth information on how to make wise choices about the best college majors and scholarships. These guides often work for finding bachelor degrees – but also with masters and doctoral programs later. They also help young people find alternative paths to a college degree, such as an accelerated degree or competency-based degrees.
Figure out the finances
Unfortunately, just finding the best college for yourself is often not enough to attend it. The most limiting factor when it comes down to college selection is, of course, the money. Before putting the colleges on your list of final contenders, you should have a crystal-clear idea of how much the tuition costs, whether they offer any financial aid, or if they have any scholarships available. What kind of assistance will you qualify for? The cost of studying doesn’t end with tuition or even with room and board. Things like textbooks, living expenses, transportation also add up to the final price. A good idea is to go over the specific details with your parents or whoever is going to be helping to pay for your college expenses. If you happen to fall short of what is needed, don’t be afraid to contact the financial aid office at your school.
Have a back-up plan
This one goes without saying. An excellent back-up plan can save you a lot of time and patience. If you don’t get into the college that was your first wish, you want to make sure you have attractive backups/alternatives. You definitely do not want to risk wasting an entire academic year. Another aspect of having a back-up plan that many people don’t realize they should have is to prepare for the worst, even if you get into your desired college. Unforeseen things can happen, such as unsafe dorms, crazy roommates, medical emergencies, sudden financial hardships or other unfortunate events. Who would even have guessed at the risks of COVID-19 even a few months before the pandemic hit. Perhaps most importantly, you might just realize that the college you enrolled in is not the best fit for you. It takes a great deal of maturity sometimes to realize that a school just isn’t right for you and this is why it’s good to have a plan B, like transferring or taking time off.
In short, picking out a college that is right for you doesn’t happen easily for many people. Give yourself time for your search. Do your homework. Have the patience to process all of the information that come into play when you’re picking out a college. And have a backup plan. It will all pay off in the long run.