Choosing a College
The whole college application process is daunting, but exciting. You get to decide how and where the next four (plus or minus a few, with gap years or other credits) years of your life will go.
In spring of your senior year all those different size letters and e-mails start to arrive. Once the dust settles, some people have a very easy time, and go to a school they had their heart set on from day one. On the other hand, some people agonize over the choice, since there are so many factors to consider.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, it's an important choice. Listening to the advice of friends and family can be helpful, but ultimately the decision is yours. You should talk honestly with your family about finances, as this can play a large role in your decision as well.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you're planning for college (and hopefully had considered when applying!):
- Location: do you want to live in a big city? Suburban area? How far from home can you realistically imagine yourself? Will you fly, drive, or walk to get home?
- Cost: look at financial aid options and scholarships closely, and talk with your family about this.
- Size: do you want to go to a small or big school? Think about your high school and what that was like for you.
- Curriculum and Classes: What do you want to study? What departments and majors at the school interest you? Is it a broad-based liberal arts education or more specialized? How sure are your post-college plans? How much flexibility do you want with classes and requirements? What is the student-professor ratio?
- Housing: Would you live on campus in a dorm? Would you have to find an apartment and/or roommates?
- Extracurriculars: How much do the student activities interest you? Could you imagine yourself as part of at least a few campus groups? As a leader?
These are not the only factors to consider. I think of these as more of a starting point. Looking at school websites and talking with students is a great way to find out more. Visiting can also be helpful if you can take the time and have the money to see the school. However, tours are certainly not the only way to learn about a school. Many schools also have an admitted-students weekend, which can be a fun way to learn about the students and campus.
The experience of choosing a school varies for everybody, and can be both difficult and exciting. I had not traveled much before school, and nobody warned me about how cold eastern winters would be, but those are just a few examples of what to keep in mind! Good luck with the decision, and remember to be thorough and thoughtful, so that your college years are the best they can be.
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