Finding a college that’s right for you is no easy task—but the earlier you start preparing, the better off you’ll be. Here, you’ll find seven things you should consider as you’re looking at potential schools. Follow these steps to find a college that’s a perfect fit.
We get it: How are you supposed to choose an exact career at 17 or 18 years old? That’s a big decision that can take years to truly figure out. So instead of thinking about what you’re going to do for the rest of your life, think of this decision in terms of your passions, values, and abilities. What feels interesting and exciting to you right now? These reflections can point you in the right direction when it comes to choosing an area of study or a potential future career.
Don’t try to make this decision alone. Your school guidance counselor is a great start, and if you feel like you need additional resources, iMentor is an organization that can put you in touch with a trusted adult. Sometimes talking things out can help you feel more confident about making big life decisions, trust us.
2. Community, Public, Private, or Ivy?
There are several different types of colleges, and they each have their pros and cons. Do a little research to start pinpointing what matters most to you. In some cases, your GPA may matter, and you may also want to talk to your family about finances. And of course, you should also examine what your experience will be like at each school. Make sure this is a place that will feel like home for the next few years.
Still feeling uncertain? Your school guidance counselor or a trusted adult mentor can help you narrow your options down here too.
3. Budgets and Financial Aid
It’s important to think realistically when it comes to your budget. Many people can’t afford to pay for college completely out of pocket, but thankfully, there are usually scholarships and financial aid options that can help you cover at least some of the tuition. If you’re a member of a minority group, UNCF may be able to help you financially. Or if you’re the first person in your family to go to college, Rise First has great resources for finding aid. And no matter your financial circumstances, College Scholarships is a site that can provide you with more information about scholarship opportunities.
If you’re ready to start applying for financial aid, grab a parent or mentor and check out the Federal Student Aid site. It will help you understand what to do next.
4. Check the Admissions Requirements
This is one of the most important steps when it comes to choosing, applying to, and getting into a college. What sort of grades or extracurricular activities will you need to get in? When it comes to applications, most schools require a certain SAT or ACT score, a personal essay, and student records. Knowing what your resume looks like ahead of time will help you determine which schools will make the best fit for you.
5. Campus Tours
So you’ve narrowed down your options to a few top choices. Before you make a final decision, make sure to attend an in-person or virtual tour. This is a great way to see what life is like on campus while also learning more about the school’s programs. Have a list of your questions tucked in your backpack or notebook to make the most out of your visit.
6. Check Out Campus Newspapers
If you want a current student perspective, college newspapers and publications are an unbeatable resource. These will give you a good look into life on campus, what opportunities are available, and what the student body values. (Psst, many campus publications are available online, so you can easily stay on top of the latest news.)
7. Speak to Alumni
Another way to learn what life is really like at a school is to talk to former students. They can give you the ins and out of college life, as well as guidance on the academic requirements to get in. Each person's experience will be unique, so if possible, talk to at least a few people. Your guidance counselor may be able to connect you with other students from your high school who’ve gone to the college you’re interested in. If not, you could also try reaching out on LinkedIn or social media; you may be surprised at how willing to help many alumni can be.
So you’ve found your dream school and sent in your application. Congrats! These incredible books will help you start planning for your next step.
By: Mandy Carr