Write down your answers to these questions and keep them nearby when you are looking to pick a college or university. Look for a school that meets your answers to these criteria, and you will be well on your way to a wonderful college experience!
- What (Generally) Do I Want to Study?
I said before that you don’t have to know exactly what you will major in, though if you do, that’s great too. And that still holds true. But you should be able to narrow down generally what your interests are. Do you gravitate more toward the sciences? The arts? Do you like to write? Or build things? Are you interested in starting a company? Are you hoping to eventually become a lawyer or doctor? Narrowing down your search to schools that have excellent programs in your preferred general field of study is the best starting point in your search.
- Big or Small?
Do you thrive in a small, concentrated environment with only a few other students and less conventional teaching methods, or are you more comfortable in large classes with more standardized tests?
- Culture Considerations
Is there a particular cultural consideration that matters to you? Do you wish to attend a school where students tend to adhere to a particular religious belief? Are more diverse? Would you feel more comfortable at an all-girls school? Or a historically black college/university?
- Conventional or Unconventional?
This is a small, but important consideration. Most people prefer to attend a school with a traditional educational system in place, while some may prefer a less conventional educational style. Remember that you don’t have to go to college, and if you do choose to, you don’t have to keep doing the same old thing if you dislike it.
It’s a sad fact of life that we have to think about this when we go to pick a college, but it should certainly be on your list of considerations. Many public, in-state schools can offer a fantastic education for a much more affordable price, but many of the top schools in the country are more expensive private universities and institutions. Sit down with a spreadsheet or even a pencil and paper, and consider how much you are willing to burden yourself with debt. Remember that if you take out loans, you are going to be paying them back for the next 20 years, every month, which may limit your career options.
Also, give serious consideration to schools willing to offer you the financial aid (such as scholarships, grants, or loan repayment assistance (LRAP) programs) that will let you attend that school with minimal financial burden upon graduation
Once you have completed this list, you are most of the way there and now you simply need to look at colleges that meet your criteria.