It hit me today as I was discussing grad school options with my friends, that it has been almost three whole years since I received my first college acceptance letter. Now that I’m basically doing the whole process over again, I want to make a list of things that are really important in choosing the right college. These are things that I definitely didn’t really put enough thought into the first time around.
1. Make sure the school offers not only your prospective major, but a few others that you might also be interested in.
Many students, myself included, change their major sometime during their college career. I’ve learned that you can be interested in a subject but not necessarily to the extent that you want to spend a whole four years studying it in depth. Also, sometimes the major you choose just isn’t right for your personality or future career. One suggestion would be to make a list of about five majors you would be interested in, and narrow down colleges that offer at least three as possible choices.
2. Be familiar with how financial aid works
Too often I find people who are stuck in a sticky situation because they weren’t fully aware of how loans, grants, or work study worked. Make sure you ALWAYS read the fine print before you sign for loans. Realize that although your work study may be a certain amount, that doesn’t mean you will definitely earn that much in a semester. It’s up to you to calculate how many hours to work in order to meet the total amount.
3. The quality of available transportation will change your life DRASTICALLY.
For some schools (mine included), having a car on campus can get expensive or inconvenient. Most students on campus will rely on things like a public bus to get around the campus and the surrounding town. The more reliable the bus system, the better. ALSO if you are going to college far enough away from home, make sure that there are major airports in the area that are easily accessible. I learned the hard way that not being able to find a cheap and reliable way to the airport can cause a lot of unneeded stress.
4. Diversity on a college campus is more important than you think
I always wanted to go to a school that had a decent size minority population but it wasn’t something I looked into TOO much. Being here, although my race only makes up about five percent of the population, has made me discover more things about myself and my culture that I don’t think I would have found elsewhere. Diversity also isn’t limited to just race but also religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. You learn so much more being around all different types of people, which I feel is an experience that you can only have during your college years.
5. The student resources that are offered can really make or break your experience.
I’m fortunate to attend a university that has so many things to offer us. You can check out laptops from the library, there are free printing facilities throughout campus, and there are multiple ways to get funding for things like conferences or internships. It doesn’t seem important now but as you progress through your time in college, you realize that something as small as being able to check out a laptop is a blessing in disguise when your personal computer crashes and you have a paper due the next day.
Choosing the right college is a scary experience that sometimes I wish I had taken more seriously. Thankfully, I ended up going to the right school for me but transferring schools is a real phenomenon that many go though. Truthfully, you will never know if you fit in with a school until you’re there, but its wise to do some research in order to make the process a bit easier.
Feel free to ask me questions about choosing the right school and about the admissions process as well!
Until next time,
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