Words from a Senior
For many high school students, no task is as daunting as choosing a college. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are more than 4,400 degree-granting institutions for higher education in America, with 330 in Ohio alone. Despite these boggling numbers, every college-bound student desperately hopes to find the one school which is the perfect fit for them.
So, how do you find your dream school?
First, research which universities offer your intended major or academic program. Nothing is worse than falling in love with a college before realizing it doesn’t offer your intended major, so this step could save you some heartbreak later on.
After narrowing your scope based on academic standards, personal preference comes into play. ACTstudent.org has a list of personal criteria to consider when picking a school. The main categories are location, environment, size, admission requirements, academics, college expenses, financial aid, housing, facilities and activities. Be sure to take all of these factors into consideration.
The importance of the campus can’t be understated. You’re going to be spending the next four years of your life there, so it’s crucial to choose a place where you’ll be happy and comfortable.
According to www.college-scholarships.com, “Never make your final college selection without visiting at least your top two or three choices. No matter how well you think you know a college or university, you can learn a lot (good or bad) by spending a few hours on campus, including whether the college feels like a good ‘fit’ for you.”
I can attest to this. I decided not to apply to colleges after visiting them because I wasn’t completely comfortable on the campus. In contrast, a college visit led to my decision to enroll in my future college, Syracuse University. After seeing the beautiful campus and plethora of opportunities available for students first-hand, I couldn’t imagine myself attending school anywhere else.
Hudson High School juniors and seniors are allowed three days for college visits every quarter. I suggest you take advantage of these. Visiting a university when school is in session provides a better and more realistic experience than visiting in the summer.
To provide aid, many websites, such as www.actstudent.org, have lists of things to consider and questions to ask while visiting a college.
It’s never too early to start researching colleges. The earlier you narrow down your options, the more time you have for applications and visits. Most application deadlines are in January or February of senior year. Try having your top choices narrowed down by then, since applying to a handful of schools you really like is way less stressful than applying to several schools you know little about.
As a last piece of advice, make sure you’re applying to a school for the right reasons. Don’t feel pressured to apply or enroll somewhere just because it has a noteworthy reputation or because you think it will impress your parents and improve your resume. Chances are, many schools will have impressive programs for your intended degree, so decide based on how you personally feel about a college.
Similarly, one of the biggest mistakes students make is enrolling somewhere just because they are following their friends. College is a time to branch out and meet new people, and you might miss out on a university perfect for you if you decide to follow your friends.
Choosing a college is easier if you know how to approach this task. If you need help making a list of colleges to investigate, collegeboard.com has a survey which matches students up with colleges that fit their preferences. Other similar websites exist as well. Of course, guidance counselors can also help with any questions regarding college.
Choosing a college is a vital part of being a high school student. No matter where you choose to attend, though, have fun and enjoy “the best four years of your life.”