Many juniors are well into the research phase of the college admission process. This is the time when students have to do some deep soul-searching, often with the help of parents and counselors, to determine the qualities of a college that are most important to them. Every student’s wishlist will be different. But oftentimes, students don’t know where to start. Of course, meeting with a Campus Bound counselor will help, but we also present in this blog the four big questions to ask yourself as you begin exploring different colleges.
- What do I want to study? Don’t forget the primary reason for attending college is to earn a degree in a specific area. Many students head in to college undecided, and that is okay, but it makes sense to at least have some direction and educational goals in mind while picking a college. Perhaps a career interest and abilities test would help (Did you know that Campus Bound students are eligible to take one for free? Ask your counselor!). Your educational aspirations should be at the top of the college wishlist.
- Where do you want to be located? Do you want to be far from home or close to home? What part(s) of the country are you open to? Relatedly, what part(s) of the country are you NOT open to? Do you want a campus in a city or one that is more rural? If you are really stuck and not sure what you want in a college, this can be a good place to start; see colleges in different locations so you can fully understand the differences.
- What is the ideal size of a school for you? This doesn’t mean the size of the campus, although I suppose that could be an influence as well; this typically means the number of students that attend the school. There may be graduate students as well as undergraduate students, and that can make a difference also. Size can play a role in: class sizes, course offerings, social offerings, campus housing and more. Again, if you don’t know if you want a big school, a small school, or something in the middle, go see firsthand what the differences are between each.
- What do you want the “feel” of the school to be? (Parents, don’t underestimate this one.) Every college has a different “personality” and it’s extremely important that a potential student is going to be comfortable and fit in at the school they attend. Things that contribute to the feel of the school are: what are the students like? What do they do for fun? Do they go home on the weekends or stick around? Where are students from? How is the campus organized? Are there places on campus where you would want to hang out? There are many more things that go into this, but mostly students describe it as a “gut feeling”, and again is why visiting schools is so important.
Of course, there are many other criteria that go into making a college list…. finances, chances of being admitted, athletics or clubs, religion, housing, learning environment, etc. But if you are stuck and don’t have any clue where to start the college search process, these four criteria are a good place to start. Campus Bound counselors are expert resources in helping students develop a college list as well!