How to Choose the Right College the First Time

Advice from some one who got it wrong:

When you are choosing a college a lot of different thoughts go though your mind. “Will I fit in here? Will I be able to keep up with the work? Can I afford it? What will my parents think? Will I be able to get a job when I am done?” The list goes on and on to a point where any person can lose track of what they are looking for.

The most important step is to figure out what you want out of your college experience. Are you looking for a religious school, liberal art school, technical school, or a school renowned for a particular subject? Once you have that piece of information in hand, you can weed out a good number of school that do not and will not fit your criteria.

Once you know what kind of school you want to go to, you need to decided how near or far from home you want to be. If you want to stay within driving distance of your house, your options might be much narrower than if you are willing to out of state.

The next step is to visit some schools and get the feel for them. Many schools offer “open house” situations where you can go on campus and ask questions about the school. Most schools have students that are attending the school participating in these tours. Some of the important questions to ask seem obvious like, “Do you like the school? How is the course work? Are the teacher knowledgeable? What is the course load like?” Some of the other questions are less obvious, but often times more important: “What are the drawbacks of the school? What is your least favorite thing about being at this school? Are there any odd rules that make this school different from most other schools?” If you leave the negative questions unanswered, you may find that the thing that made you love the school is also the thing that makes you hate it. In my case, it was a religious school right down to a monastery on campus. I took the staff's word for it when they said the curriculum did not revolve around religion but ended up taking 3 out of 5 classes a semester that involved religion in some way. Had I asked any student on campus, they would have been able to say that the curriculum did involve a lot of Bible reading.

Even if you have chosen a single school, APPLY TO MORE THAN ONE SCHOOL. Give yourself the option to change your mind past the application date by applying to any school you think you might enjoy going to.

The last step is often picking between a few schools you have applied to and been accepted to. Start looking at which schools are first, second, and third choice before you get the acceptance letter so you do not feel overwhelmed if all three accept you. You might want to do this by looking into the financial aspect of the schools. If the school is away from home, you need to look at housing costs and meal costs as well as tuition and book fees. Look into tuition assistance and apply for as many scholarships as possible as well as filling out the FASFA and seeing if you qualify for grants such as the PEL Grant. If you are decided on your major, look at which of your top schools offers the best program for your major, but also keep in mind that many freshmen change their major throughout their college career, sometimes as late as their junior year.

If you are not interested in going to a physical campus you may be interested in taking online courses.

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