One of the first things many students do when starting their college search is to put colleges on their “list.” However, are the reasons those colleges are going on the list the right reasons to consider a college? For many people, a college will go on the college list because of its name and reputation. But, does that college have what you need in a college? Maybe or maybe not. Instead of starting your college search by putting college names on a list, consider getting to know yourself first and then building your list.
Just because a college has a big name doesn’t mean it is a good fit for you. A good college fit means that it matches you academically, socially, and financially. Therefore, when starting your college search, consider these questions:
- What locations are you willing to consider?
- Will you consider colleges in urban, suburban, and/or rural settings?
- What majors are you considering? If you do not know exactly what you want to study, are their subjects you are learning towards? If there are multiple areas you enjoy, keep all of those in mind when considering colleges.
- Are there specific extracurricular activities that are important to you and you want to participate in college?
- Do you want to be a college athlete and compete competitively for the college? If not competitively, do you want to play intramural sports?
- Do you want to attend a religiously affiliated college? Or, do you want to stay away from them? Or, maybe you don’t mind either way.
- Do you want to attend a college that is the size of your high school? Or, do you want to attend a college that is the size of a city?
- Will you need financial aid to help pay for college?
The questions above are important to consider when thinking about the college you will attend in the future. You may also have other things that are important to you – if they are important ask those questions and search for colleges that meet your wants and needs. Some of those big name colleges you thought you might want to attend might not meet your needs. This is the reason it is so important to get to know yourself and what you need in a college.
Once you know yourself a little more and what you need in a college, then you can start building your big college list. There are a few ways to find colleges that meet your needs:
- College Counselors. Talk to your high school counselor and/or independent college counselor. College counselors have a lot of knowledge about colleges and can provide recommendations.
- College Search Websites. There are many websites available that allow you to enter your preferences. Once all of your preferences are enter, the websites will provide a list of colleges that meet your needs. My favorites include College Board’s BigFuture and CollegeNavigator.
After you have your BIG list of colleges to consider, it is then time to start researching each of the colleges. While on paper the colleges on the list meet your needs, they may not all be good fits for you. You will then need to do further research to make sure the college feels “right” for you. You can do this by searching their websites, attending college fairs and talking to representatives, attending college presentations, and visiting the colleges.
As you are building your college list, make sure the college meets your needs and feels good for you. Just because a college is a good fit for a friend or family member does not mean it will be a good fit for you. Therefore, follow your feelings and find those colleges where you feel you will do well and enjoy!