As your senior year of high school rolls around, it is easy to become bogged down with the horrid process of selection a college to continue your studies at. Fear not, because we will take each step of the process and simplify it in an effort to provide a clearer picture of how to best select a college that meets your needs. Please note however, that there is no single answer to anyone’s college search. It is highly advisable to keep your options open to provide yourself with the most options when May comes and it is time for you to make the final decision.
Little do people know, the college admissions and preparation process begins way before your senior year in high school. The junior year plays a pivotal role in the planning process. It is a best practice in most cases to have a decently clear idea of what direction you would like to take your educational career at least a year before you graduate. This provides you with adequate time to make all necessary preparations and to mentally prepare yourself for the endeavor. The biggest source of collegiate stress results from not taking the needed time to sit down with your parents and/or advisers and think about what you would like do spend time doing. During this process, it is important to keep in mind that while financial concerns are a big concern, you shouldn’t let that dictate your intended major or institution entirely as, at the end, you may end up hating your life because of your college choice. There are plenty of opportunities for those who can not afford a fifty thousand dollar tuition to make other arrangements if you will only put forth the effort. It may seem unfair at the time, but the payoff will certainly surpass the effort that you initially put in.
Okay, so once you have taken an hour or so to sit down and really think about exactly what it is that you would like to do and not what you think you have to do, it is time to start researching colleges that would lend themselves well to your aspirations. The internet is perhaps the most readily available source of instantaneous information about any given institution of higher learning. Try not to pay so much attention to the college ranking published by the noted magazines and organizations. While these rankings can provide a basic overview of the quality of a program, they cannot account for individual needs. Take some time over the coming months to sift through your selected colleges’ websites and register for their email and postal mailing addresses. You will begin to receive regular mailings directly from the schools that often contain interesting viewbooks, course catalogues, and other informative materials that will help you make the big decision in the future.
As time passes and you read further into what each individual school offers you will be able to see certain pro’s and con’s with each one. It is at this time that you should begin to rank each by the level at which it suits your personality, goals, aspirations, interests, etc. Once you have obtained a general list, it is often helpful to visit the campuses of your top selections to offer further insight into what each location offers and to get a feel for the atmosphere of the student body. Start with the local campuses, as they will bear the least financial investment to visit and continue until you have visited your top 3-4 schools. Make plans to take your family with you, however, be sure to find some time off to yourself to determine if the school is the kind of place you would like to spend four of your best years studying at. If possible, sit in on a lecture or lab and talk with some of the students about the things every college student worries about. (Things such as food, dorms, social scene, recreational time, etc)
Throughout this whole process it is important to remember that the college that you will ultimately select should be one that is the best fit for you, and not who you think you want to be. While it is healthy to maintain aspirations, it can be just as harmful to place yourself into an environment that you will not be happy in. Take the time now to prepare and you reap vast rewards with a happy, successful, and fulfilling undergraduate experience!