Choosing the Right College for You

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How is a sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen year old put in charge of making a decision that can change their whole life, and be told to make it in a few short months? Choosing which college to go to is chiefly put up to the student in this case. Part of finding the right college or university will, of course, be mainly picking out the criteria that matter most to you, and then seeing if any of the colleges or universities you’re looking at fit those criteria. After going through this experience recently as a high school senior, I know that it all can be very overwhelming and confusing.
There are many schools out there to choose from — some you known and some you have never heard of before, nonetheless they are all worthy of your attention. You need to think about yourself and your reasons for going to college before you start your search. Why, really, are you going? Is it because your parents are making you, or is this something you really want? What are your abilities and strengths? What are your weaknesses? What do you want out of life? The different types of schools on your list can often be overlooked when you’re considering college criteria, but you should keep in mind that all colleges and universities are not the same.
First of all, think about all of the people in your life who are happy and successful. Then, find out where they went to college… or if they even went at all; college is not something that everyone needs to go through. You will likely find that success around you in life has less to do with the choice of college than with the experiences and opportunities those people encountered while in college. Choosing a college for the sole reason being that your friends are going there or because of where it ranks on a list does not take into account who you are and who you will become there. College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won. Finding a good fit requires time and thoughtfulness rather that what looks the most fun or where everyone else seems to be going.
Obviously, academics should play a huge role in determining the right school for you, I know they did for me. But, so does location. Where do you want to study? Is year-round sunshine a must? Or does the call of winter ski season require a more diverse climate? Whether you’re close with your family and someone who wants to stay close or an adventurer who wants to get as far from home as possible, the location should be a factor in choosing a college.
Also, don’t forget to consider the sizes of the schools you look at during your college search. Colleges come in all sizes, from a schools that enroll only 26 students to a public university that can enroll 30,000 or more. Which one is better? That depends on you. It is not the number of people that surround you, but the people themselves and the kind of community in which you will learn that really matters.
The cost of college is one thing that most parents and students alike think about during the college search process. Not all colleges and universities have the same tuition and there are a variety of ways to cut your costs. Most schools offer financial aid and scholarships aside from student loans. It is difficult to talk about money (especially with parents), but if you search through all the options and ask for help and advice, you will most likely find affordable choices.
Finally, just because it’s a “highly-ranked” or “prestigious” school doesn’t mean it’s the right school for you. Don’t always assume that the difficulty of getting into the school equates to the quality of education you’ll receive. Some students need smaller classes and more one-on-one interaction to thrive in a learning environment, even being close to home.
Choose a school for reasons that fit to you, not to your friends.

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