Finding the Perfect College
Where Will You Be For Four Years?
There are over 3000 colleges out there...do you know which one you want to go to? I have been studying colleges for years now, and I want to give you the information I have come up with. There are some simple criteria to follow in order to make a preliminary list. Still, it is up to you to get the grades, and make the all important final decision. Please leave some feedback, and let me know how much these factors affected your college decision!
Location, Location, Location
Just like in real estate, location is truly everything. Most people would like to stay close to home...others want to get as far away from home as possible. I am really sorry to hate on Indiana, but I fell in love with a little school there, but coming from California, Indiana did not cut it. When you are making your list, take into account the factors like big city, diversity, and social scene. Some people like colleges that are very spread out, while some like a college campus. A good example is two colleges right next to each other in Boston University and Boston College. To some, the biggest factor of location is WEATHER. Like I said, I am a California man, so traveling to somewhere in the Northeast is quite a challenge. Some want to go South for the nice warm climate, say Miami. No matter what, make sure you can deal with the weather, because you will have to deal with winters for four years. Some people may not realize that there is a good chance you will end up staying in the area you go to college due to local job recruiters, and possibly finding your future spouse, never let that leave your mind.
Size Does Matter
I personally like a smaller school (under 5,000 undergraduates) as opposed to a very large school (over 20,000 undergraduates). This is really left up to your discretion. In a small school, you will be expected to go to every class, and you will probably meet most of your classmates by the time you leave in four years. In a huge school, you will probably be treated like a number and have teaching assistants instead of actual professors. You can tell I am partial toward small schools, but let me throw a few more stats at you. If you go to a smaller school, you will have a better chance of graduating in 4 years, that means one less year of paying tuition! Also, you will be competing with fewer students for financial aid and scholarships. Another factor is the strong sense of community most small schools have. Do not get me wrong though, big schools have many advantages. One of these is that most large schools have awesome sports teams, or at least games are more fun to go to. Parties are probably bigger and better funded. Alumni networks are great for getting jobs, and more alumni means bigger network. You may not need to go to class if you go to a big school. Lastly, a large school is basically like a city in itself, so you do not need to worry too much about the local nightlife or social scene.
Finding a college that fits your budget is becoming more and more challenging today. Many privates come out close to 50K for everything together, while budget cuts are even driving up public schools...DO NOT FREAK OUT THOUGH. There is a lot of money out there if you know where to look. Many organizations offer scholarships, and many schools offer great financial aid packages. You may need to go to a "financial safety." This is a school you would be in the top 10% of applicants, thus merit scholarships would flow more freely. Many privates have generous financial aid departments that will work to bring you in, and staying in-state is still a relatively cheap option that a job during school should be able to cover.
Do They Have the Goods?
One thing that must be checked out is whether or not the school has your major. Many schools have either business or engineering, but not both. This is a simple thing to do by just looking at the college's website.
Making Your List
Keeping this short, sweet, and to the point. Basically, you should have three reach schools (schools you are toward the bottom of their accepted class), three target schools (schools you should make it in at about the middle of the class), two safety schools (schools you know you are into), and one financial safety (a school that should give you a nice merit scholarship).
A Few Great Books
Get a little more information here...I highly recommend Fiske's guide for a more in depth view across the country, and Colleges that Change Lives has some really hidden gems.