Thoughts When Choosing a College

College can be scary, and choosing a college can be even more so because there seems to be so much at stake. A million thoughts come to mind at just the word.

“What college should I choose?”  “What if I choose wrong?” “How am I supposed to know what will be right for me?”

Sound familiar? 

I know. I’ve been there. Choosing a college can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as you know what you should be factoring into your decision.

1. What do I want out of college?

Choosing a college is and should be a very personal thing. Without that thought in mind you run a higher risk of being unhappy with your decision in the long run. You should have at least a few solid things in mind about what you want to get out of your college years before you start picking. Like…

“Do I want to be in/near a big city or be in a smaller town?” For me personally I felt more comfortable with choosing a school in a small town because it felt less overwhelming than being in a city atmosphere which I have little experience with.

“Do I want to be mainly involved in activities on campus or do I want to have more options off campus?” Depending on your answer you would want to look into the types of activities that the school offers compared to things you can do to fill your time off campus.

“Do I plan to go to a lot of parties?”  While every school will have parties – yes even the schools that seem like those things will never happen at, have parties-  there are certain schools that have a bigger ‘party school’ reputation than others. Really big party schools already have the reputation from the get go, but a good way to know about this, if you have a chance, is to talk to people who attend the college.

2. What is the average rate of graduation?

This can be important when you wonder about how much time you plan to be in school for. There may be an average years of schooling in general for the school.  Generally people associate college with four years. But there are also certain majors that take longer to achieve a bachelor’s degree for. I have a friend who has an education minor and her averager rate to graduate is 4 and a ½ years.  Also, the bigger more impacted schools tend to have an average rate of about 5-6 years because of the difficulty to get into required classes.

3. How big is the school?

The size of the school can be a make or break it for many reasons. Bigger schools mean bigger campuses. Depending on the size some campuses are more walkable than others. One campus may only take 15 or so minutes to walk from one end to the other and another may take well over half an hour. Which can affect your ability to get to classes on time if you aren’t prepared for it. Don’t worry some big campuses offer shuttles to different parts of campus, but it is always better to know what you are getting yourself into beforehand.

Another reason to consider how big the school is has to do with class size. My average class size  is 1:14 with my biggest class being just under 30 students and every one of my professors knew my name after the first or second day of school.  Larger schools will have classes with hundreds of undergrad students, and professors who will never know your name unless you make the conscious effort to engage with them. The larger class sizes also mean classes are more impacted, and especially as a underclassman, harder to get a spot in. One of my friends was waitlisted for a class that had almost 600 students in it.  So your preference in what will best suit you is important.

4. How does the campus make me feel?

College becomes your home away from home so it really should make you feel comfortable. This is why it is a great idea to visit a campus before making your final decision. Each college has its own vibe and it is something that you can feel when you are there. The moment I stepped foot on my campus I knew that I could live here. So making sure a college has that for you should be a priority.

5. Does it have a good program I am interested in?

Not all schools are the same. Some colleges have better programs for certain majors and that is just a fact. For me finding a college with a great program was one of the most important things I looked at because a better accredited school (for me in theater) can help when looking for jobs post graduation. You don’t have to come in knowing exactly what you want to do with your life but if you don’t find a school with good classes for things you are interested in than it may come back to bite you in the butt later on.  

What other things do you think are important to think about when choosing a school? Leave your ideas in the comments below.

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