Congrats on making the decision to go to college! The 5 steps below will help you determine what types of colleges will work best for you!
1) What are your career goals?
Growing up, I think we all were asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. Now the time has come to answer that long-time question. When applying for colleges, it is important to remember the core purpose of attending higher education, which is to prepare for a career.
Far too often, I have witnessed students who choose a major that does not apply to his or her career goals. When choosing a college, it is important to determine what career path interests you. Once you determine which career path suits you, a college major can be determined.
If you are unsure of your career-goals do not panic! Consider taking core-curriculum classes at a community college. You can later transfer to a university when you decide on a major. Another option is to attend a University/College with an undeclared major. You can utilize Freshman and Sophomore year to complete your core-curriculum courses (which any major will require).
There are a ton of resources available to help you figure out your career path. The Princeton Review offers an assessment with multiple questions to help determine your career path. I also suggest taking a personality quiz to see your strengths and weaknesses. There are also an abundance of personality quizzes available. My favorite test is the 16 Personalities is free and based off Myers-Briggs personality theory.
2) Where do you want to live?
Ask yourself the following….
- Are you willing to move away from home?
- If you are comfortable with moving, how far are you willing to travel?
- Do you want to be able to drive home on the weekends?
- Would it bother you have to travel by plane?
- Do you prefer a certain type of climate?
Answering these questions should give you a general idea of where you are willing to go. In my case, I was willing to fly however, I wanted to still be a short plane-ride away. I ended up being a 12-hour car ride (or 1 hour plane ride) from my family. If you are leaning towards going away for college, it is important to also consider the cost of travel. Based on experience, the cost of flights during the Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas are more costly than the rest of the year. As a college student, you will be traveling primarily on Holidays, it is important to consider this when deciding to go away.
Once you decide on where you want to live, CollegeBoard offers a great search option to filter by location.
3) What is your budget?
Budget is a factor I wish I considered about when I was 18 and freshly off to college. If you are not receiving scholarships, it is crucial to consider the cost because you will have to pay it back!!! I cannot stress this enough… education is not cheap. Although, it may seem far-far away you will need to pay back your student loans!
Determine what you are willing to pay for tuition and search for schools within that budget. CollegeBoard offers a great search option to filter by budget.
4) What size classes do you prefer?
It is important to consider the number of students when applying to colleges. Some colleges have lectures with up to 200 students while others offer smaller classes with under 20 students
Do you prefer being part of a large or a small community? Most colleges will provide the student to teacher ratio. Personally, I wanted a medium-sized school. I ended up having classes consisting of 20-30 students. My largest lecture was 50 students for an introductory course.
Ask yourself, do you focus better in a large-class setting or small-class setting? If you are unsure how to answer that question, a medium-sized might be best for you! Once again, CollegeBoard offers a great search option to filter by school size.
5) What extracurricular activates interest you?
Just like high school, colleges offer an abundance of extracurricular activities including sports, band, debate, writing, Greek Life, and many, many more!
Personally, I participated in SCREAM Team at Coastal Carolina University. This club teamed together to attend sport events together including football, basketball, and baseball. The purpose of the club was to raise school spirit and get the fans pumped up during games.
Participating in extracurricular activities is a great way to make friends, become involved with your school, and build your resume for future employers. CollegeBoard offers a great search option to filter by activity/sport.