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.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


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.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Leah Maciel

Leah Maciel

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me with all aspects of applying for college. The website is extremely easy to navigate and gives access to so many resources. I was able to research all of the colleges I was interested in, find out any information I wished to know about, and keep them organized in a list. I've also been able to research scholarships and save them as resources for later. I've used many websites in my college and scholarship search, and CollegeXpress has by far been my favorite one to use.



High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has provided me with tips that were for college students, but as a high school junior, they were still very useful. Not only that, it also gave me an idea of what to expect when it comes to going to college or already being in college. I want to say thank you to CollegeXpress, and I hope you continue the wonderful tips until I hopefully get into college and throughout my college journey.

Sierra Carranza

Sierra Carranza

High School Class of 2022

I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to go to school; I was considering colleges in almost every state. CollegeXpress was an amazing resource and helped me compare all of my top schools. Without the help of CollegeXpress, I probably wouldn't have made such an informed and confident decision.

Maria  Fernanda

Maria Fernanda

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress is always telling you with time to spare when to apply for certain scholarships, what they require, and if you’re eligible or not. They also provide helpful tips for both incoming college students and current college students, such as what to absolutely have in your dorm.

Makiyah Murray

Makiyah Murray

High School Class of 2021

The college application process has been a stressful one, but CollegeXpress has eased some of that stress with its readily available college resources. At the beginning of the process, I frequently used the college search feature, and now that I’m almost done applying, I’ve started using the scholarship search. Both of these resources have made it easier to find relevant information.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

University of San Francisco

San Francisco, CA