Deciding on a college is tough. Some people have known what college they wanted to attend ever since middle school, others may have toured 10+ colleges and still have not made a decision yet. No matter what range you are in it’s okay! Choosing where you want to spend the next 4+ years is a lot of pressure. You don’t want to choose a college you would end up hating, and you don’t want to have regrets. So here are some tips to help you decide what college is the best fit for you!
When it came to choosing my college, I would say it was really easy. I only toured 3 colleges which I know is a relatively low number, I had friends who toured at least 8 colleges. The first college I toured looked great on paper, however, when I toured the campus I knew that it wasn’t for me. The dorms were very small, it was over 4 hours away from home, and there were no restaurants, bowling alleys, grocery stores, or anything besides a gas station within walking distance. The 2nd college I toured I actually toured before and I was certain that it would be the school for me. However, after my 2nd tour I was having second thoughts. The campus was very big. The dorms were up a giant hill that you had to climb everyday, half of the campus was on the other side of the river, and it just was way too large of a campus for me. The third and final college I toured I never even thought about touring. My mom mentioned it to me and I just said “why not” and toured the campus. The dorms were huge! At least big for a dorm. The campus was small and everything in town was in walking distance. After touring, I knew that this was the place for me. I would almost describe the feeling as when brides try on the wedding dress that is “the one”. Let’s just say that after touring I was already planning how I would rearrange my dorm, browsing through possible classes, and even looking at the food court options.
Things to Keep in Mind
1. Be Realistic
When deciding on a college you do need to be logical and realistic. You may love this one campus you toured however, the tuition is $80,000 a year and your family can’t afford it. Talk to your family or talk to your bank even on what tuition range you should shoot for. My family told me I should go for a college that costs up to $25,000 a year at the most. My college is $18,000 per year so I can afford going here. Just keep in mind that you may love the expensive college but you should know that if you can’t afford it you won’t be there long and that more expensive doesn’t always mean better.
2. Friends Shouldn’t Be a Main Reason
For me, I was the only one of my friends going to college, so this wasn’t an issue for me. However, for a lot of people a big reason why they chose a school was because all of their friends were going there. I even knew a guy who went to a college because that was where all his friends were going, however, he never toured the college or even realized that the thing he wanted to major in wasn’t offered there. Another thing to think about is that friendships don’t always last forever, and after a few years or even months, you may grow apart or become enemies (worst case scenario). The same goes for BF’s & GF’s they don’t always last and you don’t want to attend the same place as your Ex. Friends can be a reason to attend a college, however it shouldn’t be your #1 reason.
3. Don’t Be Influenced
Chances are once you start telling family members and friends about the college you plan on attending you will hear it all. “Isn’t that a party school?” “I heard the classes are way too hard” “That’s so far away you should live closer”. Once my family found out I chose my current college some told me they didn’t want me to attend a party school. This may even go the other way around, after I toured my first college I knew it wasn’t for me. My family members however, kept telling me I should attend it and that I would love. Just keep in mind that you are the best judge for what is right and wrong for you and rumors about a certain college might be true and they might not. You be the judge.
Make a Criteria List
By keeping some of the things I mentioned above in mind, you should make a criteria list to help you ween out what colleges you don’t want or shouldn’t choose. Everyone’s list is different, because some things are more important to some people over other things.
My List (No Order):
-Medium Sized Town
-Within Price Range
-Good Distance From Home
A big reason why I chose my college was the dorms, it was the main reason why I chose my University over the others. I mentioned before that the first college I toured had tiny dorms, and the 2nd college had dorms on top of a large hill. Not to mention that the walls of the dorms were cement basement like and we weren’t allowed to cover or hang anything on the walls. The college I attend now has a wide variety of dorms (singles, doubles, suites) I currently live in a double and there is enough room for a TV, 2 desks, 2 beds, a sink, a futon, a microwave, a mini fridge and enough floor space for me to do a cartwheel!
When making your own criteria list, you should rank the items in order of “Must Haves” to “Not as Important” Obviously nice dorms were a must have to me, as well as good distance to home, within price range, etc. Some less important things for me was that the school had to be in a medium sized town. Whatever you choose is cool.
Ideas for your Criteria List
1. School Size
Schools range greatly in size from less than 5,000 students to more than 15,000. There are benefits to having both large, small, and medium schools. In large schools some classes may be less personal and may even be taught by graduate students and teacher’s assistants. However, they can provide a wide variety of clubs, opportunities, and friends. Small schools will have more personal classes taught by professors who may even learn your name, however, there may not be as many opportunities for clubs, friends, and opportunities. Medium schools can go one way or another.
Some colleges lie in the heart of a large city, others are in a suburban area, some might be in the country side. If your college is in a small town, there may not be a lot of things to do or places to go. If your college is in a big town or city it may be too overwhelming, or you may even feel unsafe. My college is in a suburban area, and I would say that there are plenty of places to eat but not tons of things to do.
Is diversity important to you? Do you want to attend a school that is mostly your own race or do you want to be surrounded by a vast array of people? Do you want your college to be Co-Ed or single gendered? Do you want your college to have mostly Christian students?
4. Food Options
As a vegetarian, I needed to find a college that had enough options for me. However, you may need to attend a college with Gluten Free options. You may have allergy restrictions and you need a college that has an allergy free section. You may even just need to attend a college with a baked potato bar! The choice is all yours!
5. Distance from Home
I wanted my college to be far enough from home so my mom wasn’t breathing down my neck, but I also wanted to be close enough where my family could pick me up whenever I wanted and it wouldn’t be an issue. I currently live a little over an hour away from my house and it’s perfect. You may want to be closer, or farther. Maybe halfway across the country, maybe even halfway across the world. It’s your choice.
6. Within Budget
Like I said before, make the cost of your college a big priority. If you choose a college that is too expensive, you may have a hard time coming up with the money.
7. Major & Minor Options
A big priority of yours should be that your major & minors are offered by your college. Some majors may be very common and offered by most colleges such as Psychology however some other majors and minors may be very uncommon such as Astrology, Arabic, or even Engineering. research your college to see if it offers what you want to major in, as well as how that college ranks with that major.
My college currently offers over 240 clubs! Some colleges however might not have too many. You usually can find a list of clubs on the university web page, and most colleges allow you to make your own club if there isn’t one you want.
Do you want your college to look like the ones in movies? Do you want your college to be modern? Filled with trees and lots of greenery? Filled with sculptures and sitting areas? Atmosphere is pretty broad, but in general, what kind of vibe do you want to get at your college?
10. The Dorms
Obviously every person wants to have a big dorm room but you also should consider other things such as if you want carpet or not, if the dorm needs an elevator, if you need a sink, if you want a single, double, or suite.
Finally, you should choose a college that feels right to you and no one else. For me I immediately knew this was the place for me and I was 100% right! You are the ultimate judge. Choose a college that makes you excited to jump start your college career, one that makes you plan how you will set up your dorm room, one you would be okay with visiting 5 more times. The choice is yours and when you know you’ll know.