Originally Posted: May 7, 2018
Last Updated: Aug 4, 2020
The college selection process can be overwhelming. With so many schools to choose from, sometimes it’s hard to figure out which institution is right for you. Therefore, you must define some of the things you find necessary in a college or university while remaining flexible to other minor factors. Keep reading for four of the most important things to consider when applying to college.
1. Location matters, but it’s not everything
I’d be lying if I told you location didn’t influence my college application process. Nature is beautiful and inspiring, but I’m a city girl, and if you’re anything like me, the thought of going to college in the middle of nowhere can be intimidating. I won’t say that once you’re there you’ll never miss the city’s skyline. (You will!) Nonetheless, a school’s location won’t really matter in the end. Chances are the campus will have countless of activities to keep you and your friends entertained. Make sure the school is right for you in every other way, and location will be the least of your worries. Start by determining what really matters to you—so you can lay out what really matters in your college search!
2. You have to love every one of the schools you apply to—even the safeties
We apply to safety schools for a reason: sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want them to, and you’ll have to resort to your last choice. I’ve seen many cases in which people have been rejected from all of their top colleges; I’ve seen them cry in desperation due to their disappointment but also because they hate the school they’ll ultimately attend. You don’t want to be that person. As much as it’s okay for you to fantasize about your dream school and work your hardest for that Ivy League acceptance, find safety schools that speak to you. Perhaps you’ll like your other choices 10 times better, and that’s fine. Regardless, only apply to colleges that you know for a fact will make you happy.
3. Loans aren’t to be taken lightly
Although most people today will try to convince you that a top school is crucial to your success in life, no name is worth burying yourself in debt. As much as you may think that your dream school is everything to you and that you won’t be happy anywhere else, I assure you that several thousands of dollars later in student loans will change your mind. By this, I don’t mean to say that you should give up on your dream if a school is way out of your budget. There are institutions with great financial aid and countless of outside scholarships you can apply to. However, be smart. At this age, finances can seem like an abstract concept. Even if you know that debt is tough, the majority of high school students haven’t had enough—if any—experience with it to understand just how hard it is to pay rent, feed yourself, and handle loans with interest. Make sure the schools you apply to can fulfill your financial needs, and try to avoid loans as much as you can.
4. The school itself won’t make the experience for you
One thing you must keep in mind before hitting that submit button is that no matter where you attend, no college will make your experience—you will. Regardless of whether you attend an Ivy League school or a community college, you'll be the one who mandates whether you are happy or absolutely miserable. College is all about self-discovery, so put yourself out there. Explore new places, meet different people, engage in activities you usually wouldn’t have involved yourself in. Don’t be afraid to fail or feel average. It’s okay to struggle sometimes, and I promise you it doesn’t demean your value or defines you. You'll end up where you’re supposed to be. Sadly, things don’t always come around like we planned, but they always work out in the end. It's up to you whether you let yourself enjoy it.
Keep this advice in mind and you'll be well on your way to a stress-free college search. Haven't started looking yet? Use our College Search tool to get going!