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Choosing a College

by Megan Waardenburg

Each spring, seniors face the daunting task of committing to a college, while juniors are deciding which schools to visit and apply to. It’s the most notable choice of our age group, and each person has a unique experience in choosing a school. Before deciding where to spend the next four years and tens of thousands of dollars, it’s important to take in consideration how well each school fits your needs.

1. Majors
A school might be the most impressive and prestigious place you can reasonably attend, but sometimes a school just doesn’t have the major you want. Some students are inclined to alter their major in order to attend a school like this. It is important to consider the academic advantage of each college, and how it will fit your learning style, and help you learn effectively.
2.Acceptance
Most of us have a dream school. Sometimes there are a few barriers in the way, and one of the most common barrier is acceptance. Before spending time and money applying to a school, take time to consider whether or not you will realistically be admitted. If it’s still possible, try to raise your GPA or take the SAT or ACT a few more times to ensure you have the best chance, but make sure your goal is not going to waste your time.
3. Location
Great schools are spread out across major cities, college towns, and the countryside, not just one or the other. Finding an environment that will help you focus on your studies and enjoy yourself in your free time is challenging, but there are plenty of places to look. Don’t settle for a location that will bore you or take away from your education.
4. Social Atmosphere
Each school has a different environment when it comes to socializing. Some places are relaxed and welcoming while others can be elite and exclusive. Knowing what type of atmosphere is right for you takes a lot of work, and often involves multiple visits to multiple institutions. If you’re able to visit, make sure you pay attention to the people you speak with, and whether or not you think you would fit in there.
5. Distance
Most of us can agree that going to college in California would be nice. Maybe even getting a degree abroad would be ideal for some, depending on the field of study. However, it may not always be reasonable. Before choosing a school further away from home, consider the cost of flying home for breaks and transporting your belongings to school.
6. Financial Aid
It’s no secret that college is expensive. Between federal grants and private loans, the financial burden can last well into your career. When looking for a school, don’t ignore the cost of attendance. On the other hand, don’t let the price listed on the website scare you away. Certain schools provide as much financial aid as necessary, so give your dream school a chance before looking somewhere else.
7. Career Opportunities
Some schools have a great campus and academic reputation, but struggle to get students the internships and jobs they need. Before you commit to a school that has a low rate of graduating seniors with jobs or in grad school, make sure you know you are capable of getting the kind of job you want once you graduate.
8. Study Abroad
Many schools encourage students to take a semester to study in Europe, and help students pay for the costs of studying abroad. When looking for a school that matches your study abroad options, make sure you can afford to study abroad if you’d like to. If you’re adventurous, make sure your school offers locations outside of Europe to find more diverse places much different than studying in the U.S. or Europe.
9. Reputation and Professors
Knowing the reputation a school has with other schools and employers can be helpful, since the status of the school, its professors, or its alumni can help you land a great job or internship. Professors with a great reputation often have tons to teach, and can help you understand your studies better. Though it’s not the most important component to look for, make sure you know what you’re getting into before you commit!
10. Can you see yourself going there?
Some schools can fit all criteria in your college hunting checklist, but can still be a bad fit for you. To make sure this doesn’t happen, visit the campus if you can! You’ll never know how well you fit into a campus until you visit, and it will make you feel more comfortable knowing your way around a little bit on move in day.

Image by Megan Waardenburg

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