The process of choosing a college starts before you even finish high school. It is a decision that will influence the rest of your life and for some, making such a decision can be overwhelming. So many questions to be asked, so many things to consider, so many tests to take starting your junior year.
Do not panic. There are several questions that you can answer yourself, which will help you find the right college for you.
Where do you want to go?
Is it crucial for you to be close to your parents? Do you want to be 2-3 hours away or 1,000 km in another country maybe? A good distance for most students is 3-5 hours. This way you are close enough to go home when you need to, but not so near to go home every time you feel overwhelmed or have a bad day. Also, think if you want a rural or urban campus because they both have advantages. The city gives you the freedom to explore outside the campus, while the rural school offers a more insular experience.
What college size do you want?
Yes, this question is important. Do you feel comfortable with 50,000 students in the campus or with 1,500? Does this really matter to you? If you like to meet as many people as possible, the first option would fit you. But if you like to feel like you know most of them, then a smaller college would be the best choice.
Also, consider the size of the campus as you will spend a lot of time here. Do want one where you can walk to every class or a larger one where you have to find strategic ways to get between the classes quickly?
Does it serve my academic and professional interests?
Look for colleges that will support and encourage your ambitions and passions. Think if you want to strengthen your research and analytical skills, find top liberal arts programs or a more hands-on environment and laboratory experience.
How much will it cost?
Public colleges are far less expensive compared to private ones. Talk to your parent about the budget, if they are the ones who will help you pay for school. If you are paying for it yourself do some math and see what you can afford. Also, look for some external funding options, such as student loans. There are some colleges that offer financial aid or merit-based scholarships.
What about the social life?
Do you like to travel? You can try to apply to a college abroad. If football, basketball or any other sport is an important part of your life, look for colleges that give you the opportunity to do what you love. Do you want to volunteer and work in animal shelters or maybe feed the hungry? Look for volunteer opportunities so that you can continue doing this. Also, remember that not all schools have the Greek life system. So, if a sorority or fraternity is your goal, make sure they are available.
Do you see yourself happy there?
If you apply to a college in another state, you would like to feel included there, make friends and feel comfortable. After all, this is the place that you will call home for several years or maybe more. You should also have the opportunity to grow there, both personally and academically.
When you have to choose your college, you might also feel overwhelmed by all the advice from family, friends, teachers or advisors. In the end, it is you the one that has to make a choice and honor your own needs and preferences.