Once you start scoping out colleges, the sheer wealth of technical information you’re sure to find can be overwhelming. While learning as much as you can about potential schools, your decision doesn’t rest solely on the number of students at the school, the average test scores of admitted students, the percentage of students the school admits each year, how much money graduates make after entering the workforce, etc. These statistics can be helpful – and you certainly should research all potential schools as much as possible – but they shouldn’t be the only ones you look to when choosing a school.
- Start with you. The first thing you should look at is yourself. This may sound counterintuitive, but before you can make smart decisions you need to ask yourself a few questions. Why are you going to college? What are you hoping to achieve? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What kind of environment do you thrive in? Talk to your close friends and family members – they know you the best and will be honest with you.
- Look past the name brands. A lot of students in high school are actually not familiar with the majority of colleges out there. Everyone knows the few big names in the game, but you’ll want to look past those in order to see all the other potential candidates. Think of someone you know who enjoyed their college or is now successful and ask them where they went. Often you’ll find that opportunities to build skills and real-world experience are what made those people happy and successful – not just the name of their alma mater. Employers won’t be looking solely at where you went to college, they’re also going to be considering what you did with your time spent there.
- Keep your options open. Many students do not have a major picked out before they head to college. This may seem like it would make choosing a school more difficult, since you’re not certain which program you’ll eventually be enrolling in, but this may not necessarily be a bad thing. It’s always a good idea to keep your options open. Evaluate the school on the strength of all the programs, not just one. After all, a lot of students end up switching majors before they graduate.
- Consider the social life. Yes, it’s true that you will be attending college for academic reasons. But this is also the place you’re going to be living and spending most of your time for the next four (or more) years. The social life of the campus shouldn’t be your top priority by any means, but choosing a school with good academics but a social life that you know will make you miserable is a bad idea. Look into the different types of clubs and activities that take place on campus. You won’t be spending 100% of your time on your studies, so you may as well choose somewhere you can have some fun too.
It seems like there are an endless number of factors that can go into choosing a college. Certainly there are plenty more factors you could take into account – tuition price, what kind of financial aid is offered, what facilities are available to you, geographical location, the instructors, etc., but there are just a few to help you start narrowing down your list of potentials. No one else should choose where you attend college. The choice is important and difficult, but there is no one better equipped to make the choice than the person who will be attending. Be honest with yourself and smart about your research and decisions, and you’re sure to find a school that will fit you well.
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