So, you’ve decided you want to go to college. You may have an idea of what you want to major in. You might have what you want to do planned to a tee (like I did). Or you have no clue and are just going wherever the wind takes you. There are so many ways to find the right college, and it might seem overwhelming. But in all honesty, there are only five things you should focus on. It’s called L.A.M.P.P.
- Location: where you’ll be spending most of your time
- Admission rates/test scores: your chances of getting into the college of your choice
- Major: what you’ll study (If you’re undecided, then place this at the bottom of the list.)
- Personality/culture/lifestyle: what you stand for or how you live from day to day
- Price: how much college will cost you
L is for Location
You have to ask yourself, do you want to stay in or near your hometown, or will you be going out of state? This is a huge matter. Some people enjoy being away and being their own person, even if it means moving across the country. Others like to stay at home, close to family.
Also ask yourself, “Do I prefer a classic campus setup where everything is in one place? Or do I prefer an urban campus where the buildings are spread around the surrounding city?” Before I even knew what a classic campus was, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go to school. But after taking a campus trip, I knew right away that I’d prefer a classic campus rather than a city campus.
In addition, you have to ask yourself about the college or university’s town. Do you think you could live there for four-plus years? Do you see yourself having fun and being able to be yourself here? Do you feel safe? All these questions were things I hadn’t even thought of when I went on my first campus visit. But by the end, I knew exactly what I wanted. Being in a location where you feel comfortable will help you adjust better to college life.
A is for Admissions/test scores
This isn’t everyone’s favorite topic, but it’s important. Let’s say you’re a 2.0, C+ student in your freshman year of high school. You’re interested in college and you think you’ve found the one. Except . . . it’s highly selective and they’d prefer all “A” students with 4.0 GPAs. Ask yourself if you’ve got the motivation to boost your grades come senior year so you might be accepted to this college.
Admissions and test scores are a huge guideline for college-bound students. But sometimes colleges don’t even focus on grades or test scores. Some schools conduct interviews to see if your personality would mix with their campus. Don’t stress yourself out over this too much, but keep it in the back of your mind.
M is for Major
Another thing to consider is what you’d like to major in. Most colleges and universities have nearly all types of majors. If you’re unsure, it’s best to look for schools with a variety of options. But if you have a super-specific major in mind, you’re going to have to look into certain colleges and universities. You need to keep an eye on that if you’re planning to go into a major not offered at most schools.
P is for Personality/lifestyle/culture
Different colleges and cities have different cultures. For example, in my experience, the Midwest and the East Coast are like two different planets. I felt I could easily immerse myself into East Coast culture. You once again have to imagine yourself in this place for four years. Would you want to live there? Would you even like it there?
When I went on my tours, I tried to picture myself on campus. I imagined myself doing small things that I would normally do at home. Would I be able to easily take a walk around the block? Could I see myself going out to get something to eat and plopping down on a couch somewhere? Could I easily make friends in this setting?
Also, think about things like your beliefs—spiritual, religious, political, or what have you. Most colleges have clubs, but do they have a club that you could enjoy? Could you make friends with anyone you run into because your ideals are so similar? Or would it be difficult for you? Thinking about personal life choices like these helps the college-picking process a lot!
The other P is for Price
The word price or tuition makes both parents and students squirm. Coupled with that terrifying word comes finical aid and debt. You hear from family and friends that they’re still paying off their college loans. It’s not something that you want to fall into yourself. So always look out for how much your education may cost you.
There are two major differences in tuition: in state and out of state. In-state tuition is if, let’s say, you’re from Missouri and you want to go to University of Missouri, Columbia (a.k.a. Mizzou). The cost of tuition would be around $25,000. If you’re from out of state and you want to go to Mizzou, your tuition would most likely be around $40,000. It’s a big factor you have to keep in mind when searching for schools.
Also, don’t skimp on the scholarships. You can find any kind of scholarship if you look hard enough. Many colleges also give out their own scholarships and generous financial aid packages to incoming students, which may lower the initial sticker price and make a school’s actual price more affordable.
Searching for colleges can seem overwhelming and difficult at times. There are so many choices to make, and all of these criteria may seem like too much. But if you filter your colleges one by one, hopefully you’ll find a select few that you are drawn to. After that, it’s on to the next big step: campus tours. These will help you determine whether or not you like the school by being there and experiencing it firsthand. But that’s a whole other subject to cover. In the meantime, have fun with your college search! Play around with different ideas, and don’t be afraid to expand your horizons.