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The Best (and Worst) Parts of the College Search Process

Here are all the reasons why searching for the right college is the best and you should be enjoying a few reasons why it makes us all groan.

The college search process can be bittersweet. New opportunities intermingle with leaving the old and familiar behind. But one thing is certain: everyone planning to go to college will experience excitement—and frustrations. Here are a few reasons why searching for the right college is the best, plus a few reasons it makes us all groan.

Why the college search process is amazing

It's up to you where you spend the next four years

Growing up, no one has much say in where they live. Love it or hate it, there isn't much you can do about it. When it comes to college, it's a whole other story. If you truly love a certain state or climate, you can focus on schools in those regions. For example, if you dislike cold weather there's no reason to go to college in a snowy area. On the flip side, if you love where you live and want to be near family, you can choose to apply to schools close to home. Picking a place you are excited about makes the prospect of the next four years exponentially more exciting.

Related: 4 Key Ways to Find Your College Fit

You can pick a school that fits your learning style

Much like you can’t choose your childhood hometown, you probably don’t have much of a say in your high school. And high school can be difficult for some students, if their teachers present material in ways that don’t really work with their learning style. However, there's no reason why college has to be like this. Not a big fan of lectures? You can look for colleges with more hands-on programs or study abroad opportunities. Want more face time with your professors? You can attend a small school with an even smaller student-faculty ratio. Or if you enjoy immersing yourself in a single topic at a time, you might consider schools with block plans, where you study one subject for three weeks at a time. College is your chance to make the most of the educational experience.

You get to explore new places (and maybe take a few trips)

Travel can so much fun, and the college search process gives you an opportunity to visit and tour beautiful college campuses. Whether it's a trip to your state school or a school across the country, you're bound to see something new or unexpected. Some schools will even let you stay the night in one of their dorms. Anything that allows you to safely get out of your comfort zone and experience something new is a worthwhile venture.

Why the college search process is a struggle

The sheer number of schools makes narrowing down your favorites tough

With so many choices—there are over 4,000 four-year colleges and universities out there—how do you know which school is right for you? You can read through every 2,000-page guide on the best colleges in the United States and still be at a loss. Every college says they're the best, but how do you know which is the best for you? With endless opportunities comes endless choices and often endless confusion.

Related: How to Narrow Down Your College List

Trying to pick a school is difficult when you don't know what your major will be

Figuring out how to turn your passions into a career is immensely difficult. If you're someone who has known what they'll study in college since they were six years old, good for you! For those of us who are 16 and still don't have a clue, it isn't so simple. It's difficult to narrow down your school options based on majors when you don't know what yours will be. Thankfully for us all, college is a time to make mistakes and figure out what we want in life.

Figuring out if you like a certain learning environment when you've never experienced it is tough

The college experience is notorious for its giant lecture-style classes. Some people love them and some people hate them. But how do you know where you stand when you’ve never experienced large lectures before? Most high schools aren't large enough to give you a taste of lecture learning. The same dilemma exists for small-group, discussion-based college classes. It's difficult to know if you enjoy talking about topics for days at a time when you're told to be quiet in most high school classes. Thankfully, many colleges offer a day on campus where you can sit it on classes and see if they're your cup of tea.

Related: Comparing Public Colleges: Big vs. Small Schools

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that nothing worthwhile comes easy. But we can all find comfort in knowing that while college is a leap into the unknown, it's a leap we take together. Best of luck in your search! 

For more valuable advice on choosing the right college, check out our College Admission section.

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About Sophia Skwarchuk

Sophia Skwarchuk is a junior at Flathead High School in Kalispell, Montana. She is an active participant in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Model United Nations, track, and cross-country. She is Vice President of her school's National Honor Society chapter and volunteers weekly for Big Brothers Big Sisters. When she isn't busy pursuing her academic studies and extracurricular interests, she enjoys dabbling in the culinary arts and writing short stories.


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Lydia Huth

Lydia Huth

Student, Campbell University; CollegeXpress Student Writer

I discovered CollegeXpress while embarking on my college search journey as an excited—but scared and way confused—high schooler without a counselor or college-bound sibling to give me advice. Let me tell you, I’m so glad that I stumbled on this community! CollegeXpress helped me find potential colleges and keep application deadlines straight. It gave me a great list of scholarships, and the blogs and emails made me feel like I wasn’t going it alone. Almost three years later and with freshman year of college down, I still love the CollegeXpress vibe so much that I’m writing for them. I’d recommend this site to anyone!

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Scholarship for Students of Color Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress is a great application that helped me search for many different scholarships, and it narrows the scholarships depending on how you set your profile. Not only that, but it helps you choose different colleges to apply to by finding matches through the description of your profile. It was the best experience for me.

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CollegeXpress has helped me dramatically. Moving on to the next level has been a dream of my mine since I was just a young kid, and the support and help CollegeXpress has given me will help me further my education. I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone at CollegeXpress!

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I have spent a lot of time aggressively searching for scholarships. It was a long and frustrating process until I found the CollegeXpress network. This site made my search so much easier. With the simple check of a few boxes, the site sorted out scholarships I was eligible for and led me directly to the correct websites. Winning this scholarship has definitely given me and my family some financial relief, and CollegeXpress has allowed me to improve my chances of winning further financial aid. Thank you so much!

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