In your search for the ‘perfect’ college, have you been previously advised to find a college that aligns with your academic interests and has a strong reputation for job placement after college? While these are no doubt some of the more important aspects of the college search, they aren’t the only things that should be weighed in your decision. In fact, before you even start your search or start narrowing down your options, start by establishing your goals and objectives:
- Why do you want to go to college and what do you hope to achieve
- Take inventory of your current goals, aspirations and weaknesses (your friends, family and personal connections can help you with this, since they know you the best)
When you ask yourself some of these basic questions, like, “what do i hope to achieve at college,” you will have a foundation for when it comes time to eliminate colleges from your list and making a decision – and that’s not the only way you can start to find a college that aligns with your academic interests and goals; there are a number of different ways you can start tackling the college search and taking it beyond just surfing the web.
How to Choose a College Once You’ve Determined your Goals & Aspirations
Develop a Preliminary List of Colleges that Interest You
Start developing a preliminary list of colleges as soon as possible and consider using what you learned from establishing your goals and objectives as a guide for your research. For example, if you’re interested in pursuing a career in the medical field, be sure that the college you’re applying to can set you up for success with the right academics and internship programs. Here are a few other aspects to consider when looking at your options for college:
- Size and location
- Distance from home
- Academics: majors and classes
- Options for housing: on and off campus availability
- Culture and campus community
- Extracurricular activities available to the student
Explore Different Campuses and their Communities
Once you have your preliminary list in place, it’s time to start touring different campuses to see if what they claim on their website rings true to your experience. The best way to determine if a college is right for you is to experience it first-hand and participate in as many programs as possible, such as: group information sessions and tours, open houses, academic information sessions and more. College websites will typically feature a calendar of events and a detailed list of activities for you and your parent or guardian, so be sure to explore the calendar before you make the trip.
Speak to a College Representative
College tours are a great way to get a glimpse of what the college you’re visiting has to offer, but if you want a more one-on-one experience consider speaking with a college representative for additional information. College fairs are also another way to gather new information, as well as learn about different colleges and programs. Don’t forget to speak to a college representative too.
If you’re wondering how to find an upcoming college fair, ask your guidance department if they know of any upcoming events or sign up for the college mailing list so you can get updates on upcoming events.
Consider the Financial Aspect of College
There are two basic financial questions you should explore when considering your options for college: 1) how will outside scholarships be treated, and 2) can you get the financial aid you need? Fortunately, many of today’s colleges and universities offer a way for you to get a preliminary estimate of scholarship and financial aid eligibility; so you can be sure that you can get the financial help you need to support your academic career.
As for outside scholarships, many colleges and universities require that you submit your outside scholarship information in order to determine your eligibility for financial aid. If you are curious about how your outside scholarship will be treated and if it will affect your financial aid award, speak with a financial representative or visit the colleges’ website for more information.
Get Some Outside Perspective
Your personal relationships with your family and friends can also provide insight when it comes to narrowing down your college search. When you’re in the midst of your college search it’s easy to feel overwhelmed; this is when your parents or a teacher you value can step in and offer you some guidance. Use their insight and the information you gathered above to start getting a better idea of what you need out of a college or university, and start feeling confident when it comes time to enroll as a first-year student.