As a junior in high school, there are many different things to think about. Clubs, activities, jobs, prom, ACT testing, senior year, the list could go on.
Late in my sophomore year of high school, I started thinking ahead. Like very few of my classmates, I had started searching for a place I would, in a couple years call home. The process was a little scary but sort of exciting. My mom, only having me as the first and only child, was just as confused and a little nervous about this process.
For me, I started with some research. I had in mind what I wanted to do so I started exploring and thought that my experience would be helpful.
Here are my top 5 tips for finding the right college for you.
- Request Information
To start your college search, it is most helpful to just do some searches on google. If you have a major you’re interested in, start looking for places that offer that. If you don’t have anything in mind, start looking at small colleges and work your way up to the bigger ones. A lot of college websites have a “Request More Info” tab where you can fill out a little about you and those colleges/universities will send you or email you more information. If colleges and universities send you things, actually look at them. For me, there were a lot of things in the mail for me and after a while, I got overwhelmed, and that’s okay. Once you start looking into some of those schools and decide they aren’t for you, they might still send you stuff and it’s okay to not look at those but remember to keep an open mind when looking, you never know what you’ll find.
- Visit campus, ask questions, and talk to people.
After you’ve done a little searching and decide that you want to visit some places, do it! Don’t wait around when you have your future ahead of you. Take full advantage of the visit days some schools have or have a personalized individual visit. Either way, you get to know the college more than you would by just looking on their website. When you go on a visit, make sure you ask questions. You don’t want to be in the car on the way home thinking about the questions you had but now have no answer to. If you are interested in playing a particular sport or joining a club, most visit days will have people for you to talk to and if not, ask because those schools want you to be interested in them and normally they are very responsive to those requests.
- Don’t pick a college on 1st instinct. Explore.
For some students, it’s all about the big state schools. For instance, I have heard multiple people say “I am going to Iowa because it’s close,” or “because my friends are going there,” however that’s one of the worst things you can do. College is a time for you to explore your passions and find out more things about yourself that you don’t get to know or explore in high school.
Another thing to think about when going off your first instinct would be to not expect the first college you visit to be “the one.” For myself, I went on my first college tour and loved it. I thought that was where I was going to be calling home in a couple years, and I had my mind made up. That was until I explored a little more, I visited over 8 campuses after my first visit and I had found another favorite.
- Think Public VS. Private. Avoid looking at price tags first.
Thinking Public VS Private is an important thing to consider. Do you find yourself liking big classes with a lot of people or find yourself in small classes, getting extra attention and help? For some public schools, classes can be as big as 200+ students and for most private schools that number will be around 20 students.
Along with size, there is some uncertainty with tuition. For my family, money isn’t just something we have laying around to spend. So when I started looking at private colleges, there was hesitation because of the price tag attached to the school. Don’t let that be what keeps you from looking at or considering a school. Private colleges and universities have great scholarship programs and financial aid to help cover the big cost. In most situations, you come out paying near the amount that you would pay at a public school.
- Making a decision matters.
If you have found the college or university that you want to attend and it’s getting closer to your senior year, it is probably time to make a decision. When making a decision, you want to make sure it fits you and your needs. Is the size of school what you want? Does the campus have enough activities for you to get involved? Do you find yourself wanting to stay or wanting to leave? College is a big choice, so take your time. If you have an idea that you want to go to a school, even if it isn’t final, go back multiple times to visit. Meet with professors in the field you want to go into. Talk with students who are involved in what you like. For myself, I have gone back to the school I want to attend 3 times as well as attended a class. I will be going back and doing an overnight in the fall, just to seal the deal. That is an important step in finding out if that is the right place for you to spend the next few years.
I wish you all the best of luck whether you are an upcoming junior or a graduating senior. Make it a priority to search and find the school that is right for you.