When it comes to college, one size does not fit all. It’s important that you are satisfied with the college you choose to attend; after all, you’re spending or borrowing money to pay for your education, which isn’t cheap. Of course there is always the option to transfer schools, but most people try to avoid that route. To save time, money, and disappointment, consider the following:
1. Do your research: Doing research also allows you to learn more information about the academic programs, campus safety, extracurricular activities, job preparation, and financial aid of certain schools, as well as how they coincide with your academic, social, and professional goals. Creating a detailed list of pros and cons of each of your top schools makes committing to a school much easier.
2. Mother doesn’t always know best: While your parents may have good intentions, don’t allow their opinions about certain colleges to dissuade you from attending the one of your dreams. There is nothing more frustrating than attending a college that you are completely uninterested in, merely because your parents believe it’s what’s “best for you.” Even if your parents are spending their hard-earned money on your college education, it is of the utmost importance that you attend a college that you love (or at least like). College consists of four of the most important years of your life, so it’s important that you attend a school that makes you happy and allows you to perform to your potential.
3. Take advantage of campus tours: The glossy photos of students smiling in your favorite school’s brochure are great, but they’re not enough for you to really get a feel of the true environment (neither is solely spending hours online researching schools). Campus tours allow you to interact with current students, professors, and staff as you walk through various campus sites and gain more knowledge about the campus’ history, residential life, surrounding communities, and social atmosphere—all of which cannot be experienced from a brochure. Campus tours allow you to actually “picture” yourself attending a certain college.
4. 6th place isn’t good enough: Most people apply to a decent number of schools just in case they are denied admission to their top choices. If your top six schools are all schools that you love and would have no issue attending, great. However, if after your 3rd, 4th, and 5th choices, your interest decreases drastically, it may not be such a great idea to attend any of your “last resort” or “safety” schools. This is why it’s very important that you spend time creating a solid list of schools that you have researched, visited, and wouldn’t mind attending.
5. Be realistic: Ask yourself, “Why do I want to go to college?” Just because some of your friends plan on attending big-name colleges after graduation, doesn’t mean you have to. The responsibilities that come with attending a four-year college can be overwhelming for many high-school graduates—this is one of the reasons why some students drop out of college. If you truly feel more comfortable taking courses at a community college near home or heading right into the professional world, do so. Only you know your capabilities, desires, and comfort zone, so make an informed decision for your life that you’ll genuinely be happy with.