Even though we haven’t gotten to spring break yet, I wanted to share a post about picking a college! I know a lot of people are probably in the process of hearing back from schools, or anxiously awaiting the emails (or envelope) that roll in beginning around this time and continue through March.
I remember being SO incredibly anxious when I was applying to college (and again when law school application season came). I was young, and stubborn, and insisted on applying early to what I thought was my dream school (an Ivy League that was both out of my league and not a good fit for me). I got the rejection in December, and after a few pity parties, I reevaluated my options, and the VERY NEXT DAY after being rejected, my acceptance from Saint Mary’s came. It was almost like a sign, if you believe in signs. I waited to make my decision, though, until I heard from every college I applied to, which was kind of a lot.
Once I had all the offers in front of me, I decided to make pro con lists, and visit the schools I was accepted to, but hadn’t seen yet. So, today I’ll share what went into my decision-making process five (!!!) years ago! [Note: I feel SO old writing that. I cannot believe my senior year of high school was five years ago…]
- Take a Tour | I personally feel that touring a college can make or break your opinion, and ultimately your decision, about a college. I toured various schools when I was applying to college, and each tour was very distinct. In fact, I could probably tell you which tours left the best and worst impressions. I did an extended post about college tours a few years back, and still stand by everything I said then!
- Chat with Current Students | When I was applying to law schools, I was blown away that numerous current students from William and Mary emailed me and answered all my questions SO thoroughly. I think if you can chat with current students, whether on campus, through email, or over the phone, you can figure out if you’d like to be friends with people who comprise the student body. If you don’t really feel like you could be friends with current students, that may be a bad sign about the fit of the college!
- Make a List of Must-Haves | If there are things you really really want out of your college experience, make sure the place you choose can deliver them. You want Greek like? Maybe don’t attend a school that doesn’t have Greek. Do you want to be walking distance from independent coffee houses? Check out Berkeley, or schools that are located near a unique town!
- Talk to Faculty | Are the faculty you talk with people you’d want to learn from? People you’d want to build relationships with? If you feel like the faculty aren’t invested in students, maybe look elsewhere. But at the same time, if you want to keep a low profile, maybe that’s a positive for you!
- Class Size | Do you want to be a name or a number? If you’re constantly taking classes with 250+ people, you probably won’t get the individualized education you could get at a college that’s average class has 25 students. Class size can affect A LOT about your education, so make sure you figure out what you want. A way to figure this out? Sit in on a class at a large university and at a small university, and compare!
- Financial Aid Package/Scholarship Opportunities | College is a very expensive endeavor, so you want to assess the financial aid you will receive from schools. Additionally, a lot of schools offer merit based scholarships, and if you get one, it can be a huge help to footing the educational bill. So, look into those opportunities!
- Spend a day in the town you’ll be living in | I think sometimes when you visit campus, you get a bit swept up in the experience, and forget to really evaluate if the town around the college is somewhere you’d want to live. I toured Santa Clara University, and hated the surrounding area. When I visited Saint Mary’s, I liked that Moraga was quaint, and that I had really easy access to San Francisco, Berkeley, and Walnut Creek. All the city amenities were there if I wanted them, but I wasn’t in the middle of them, which made for a better academic environment! However, if you want to be in a hustle and bustle city, go check out the city, see what it’s like, and make sure it’s somewhere you want to spend ample time! Cities vary greatly, so make sure the city you’ll be living in is the kind of city you like.
So, I could share more tips, but I feel like the above seven are the biggest indicators that you’ll be happy somewhere… or not! If you have individual questions, feel free to email me! I love hearing from readers, and now that I have college admissions at arms length, I like helping people figuring out what’s best for them!