CHOOSING YOUR COLLEGE
Final factors to consider when making your decision
Choosing a college can feel like a daunting—maybe even impossible—decision. Ultimately, your choice should come down to one thing: which school is the best fit for you. No matter how prestigious or highly-ranked a university is, you should make sure it will offer opportunities in your intended field of study, your social life, post-graduation experiences, and—most importantly—your personal growth. As you consider your options, consider the following questions:
WILL THIS SCHOOL HELP YOU MEET YOUR ACADEMIC GOALS?
Open the course catalog and really look at the classes offered in the disciplines you are most interested in. Look for both breadth and depth—that is, the number of courses offered and the range of topics covered. Look also for interdisciplinary courses that would thrill you!
Research your potential professors. How invested are the faculty in undergraduate learning? Would they be accessible to you? How easy is it to join professors in their research? Could they be possible mentors to you in your original creative work?
Review the school’s general education requirements. Will you be able to stitch together both the courses you must take to graduate and the educational experience you really want to have? Would you be able to double major, or add a minor, to develop depth in your education. Do you want an interdisciplinary degree option? Will your major’s course requirements leave you enough time and energy to take classes in other fields, like business, humanities, or engineering/computer science?
HOW WILL YOU SPEND YOUR TIME OUTSIDE OF CLASS?
Evaluate the social scene. Does this school have a social sphere that would be great fun for you? Would you prefer a large campus with a competitive football team and a lively set of fraternities/sororities? Or would you prefer a close-knit community whose Friday night plans lean more toward square dancing sessions or quiet dorm hang-outs dissecting intellectual theories?
Consider your current interests and hobbies. Can you continue your high school extracurriculars, if that’s important to you? What new activities might you want to try--will that be possible at this school?
Location, location, location. Carefully research the school’s surrounding area, including local culture, transportation options, and nearby communities. How important is it for you to be in or near a city where you can enjoy museums, theater, diverse cafes, and restaurants...and readily find summer internships or job opportunities? Do you need to be near a hospital or other medical facility--for personal care or to gain experience for applications to graduate programs in medicine or healthcare?
WHAT NEW OPPORTUNITIES WILL THIS SCHOOL PROVIDE YOU?
Look into undergraduate facilities and programs. How extensive are they? Will they allow you to truly and deeply engage in your field of interest? What are the research opportunities? Are they for credit? Can you get a summer grant or participate in research colloquiums? Check the school’s website for available seminars, organizations, competitions, professional mentored projects, applied global programs...and more.
No college student is an island. Your classmates and the relationships you form with them will pay a huge role in your college experience. Are you enlivened by and do you enjoy the company of this school’s “typical” student? How diverse is this school in terms of geography, ethnicity, gender, and other identities?
Evaluate entrepreneurial opportunities. How important are start-up competitions, incubators, and similar programs for you? Does the school offer things like an entrepreneur's club, speakers’ series, start-up lab/hatchery/proto-typing fund, a minor in entrepreneurship, a venture fund, summer launchpads, or center for entrepreneurship?
HOW WILL THIS SCHOOL PREPARE YOU FOR LIFE AFTER GRADUATION?
Consider cost. Is this school affordable for you and your parents? What methods (loans, work study, etc.) will you use to cover costs? Is it still affordable when also considering longer-term educational goals, such as graduate or medical school?
Evaluate post-graduation support. How will this institution continue to support you throughout your life, including career assistance, professional networking, and post-grad educational opportunities?
GO SOMEWHERE YOU CAN GROW!
Select a school where you will be challenged (not coddled), provoked (not pacified), and encouraged to see beyond what you've experienced so far. Will you leave this school stronger than when you entered? The world is in constant flux and life is a sequence of surprises. There are no better qualities to gain from college than fearlessness, awareness, and flexibility!