As it turns out, colleges and universities are like fingerprints: no two are exactly alike. Each college has a different reputation, teaching style, admission process, and student lifestyle. When you visit colleges or even just check out their websites, it’s important to understand these differences in order to find the right match for you. Here are some key college attributes to evaluate as you embark on the search.
Is it a small liberal arts college or a large public university? Are you more likely to share class with 100 students in a lecture hall or work intimately with professors in a small setting? There are advantages to both, but it ultimately comes down to what kind of environment you find best for your learning style, study habits, and personal comfort.
If you know what you want to major in, be sure to find out if the college has a strong department for it. If you’re undecided, you should still check out departments that you’re at least somewhat interested in to see what possibilities exist. Find out what kind of reputation the college or university has in various industries. After you graduate, you will be better prepared for a competitive job market.
Opportunities for support
What kind of academic help are students eligible for when they’re not in class? Is there an on-campus tutoring program? Is there a writing center that helps students craft essays and write research papers? Finding out the answers to these questions is an important step to ensuring that your school of choice offers enough academic support to help you if your course work becomes difficult to handle.
Unfortunately, this is one topic that many students struggle with when applying to college. To avoid any unexpected disappointments, find out what the average financial aid package is at your schools of choice. Do they offer more loans or grants? What merit awards are available? Once again, it is imperative to ask key questions; being comfortable with your financial aid situation is important to your overall enjoyment and satisfaction during your college years.
The best colleges will actively prepare for you success for after you graduate. This includes providing programs and support to study abroad, intern, and, of course, graduate on time. Look into all of these opportunities, including the specific services offered to help students find jobs, craft a résumé, and land a valuable internship. Also, don’t forget to check out the school’s graduation rate.
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to student life. It’s probably the most personal aspect of finding a college. What it comes down to is selecting the kind of environment that helps you thrive. Do you prefer a co-ed or single-gender school? Do you want a campus with a high level of diversity and international students? Find out what kind of student activities and clubs the college offers, and if there are any athletic programs you might be interested in. Another important aspect to consider is how many students live on campus and how many commute from home.
There are two common mistakes that students tend to make in the college search/application process. One is having a very specific, ideal university or college experience in mind, only to be disappointed later on; the other is focusing only on one actual college, rather than considering alternate options. It’s important to stay open to all possibilities and be flexible. In the end, your college career is what you make of it: how hard you work, what opportunities you take, and who you know are all integral to the experience. Good luck on the hunt!