How Do I Know What College Is Right for Me?

With so many colleges and universities out there, it's daunting finding the right fit for you. Here are questions to ask to point you in the right direction.

Some teens may feel that as they get older, finding a college that fits all of their personal preferences and needs will be easier as they learn more about themselves. However, colleges and toothpaste brands have a lot in common—they will both claim to be “#1 in the nation” and “approved by the experts,” which doesn’t make the choice any easier for us. How can you be sure that you’re picking the right school for you? You can ask yourself these questions to ensure you’re going to get the most out of the school you choose.

Do they specialize in my major?

Many students have a set list of colleges in their heads before they even decide what they want to go to school for. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, because having somewhere to start from is better than going in blind. But say you want to major in physics—you wouldn’t choose a college that specializes in economics. Though many colleges and universities offer a wide range of majors that may include the one you desire, you should strive to find a school that specializes in the area of study you plan to pursue. The school’s name may be prestigious, but you’ll be cheating yourself out of the best education possible if it won’t help you in your major. For those who don’t have the first clue as to what you want to study? Start by thinking of what you’re good at or interested in. Even if you haven’t decided on a major yet, you can still seek out schools that offer programs that fit in with your general interests.

Related: How Do You Pick the "Perfect" Major?

What will life on campus be like?

Another important aspect of finding the right college is knowing what atmosphere you will be entering. The best way to determine this is by taking a visit to the college campus and seeing it for yourself! You can tour with a current student who will be able to answer questions you have about what life is like for them—living in the dorms, socializing, etc. Most colleges and universities have a student life section on their website that addresses areas such as student organizations, housing and food services, and Greek life. If you are a more reserved student, maybe choosing one of the nation’s top party schools is not one of your best options.

Can I afford it?

Affordability seems to be the big elephant in the room when it comes to choosing a school—we all know it’s one of the biggest determining factors, but it’s scary to talk about. No one wants to spend the next 40 years of their life paying off student loans. In order to avoid that, choose a college or university with tuition in your price range. Ask yourself—who is paying for my education? Will it be your parents shelling out the cash each semester, or do you plan to get a job? Still, don’t completely rule out schools that seem way too expensive. You may be eligible for scholarships and grants that you didn’t even know existed! And some schools take care of tuition for students who fall below a certain income line.

Related: How to Pay for College, Step-by-Step

Trying to figure out where you will spend your college years can be scary for anyone, even more so as the end of high school draws near. The key to avoiding a last-minute decision based on stress is to be prepared. If you begin to think about what you want in a school during your early high school years, it will make your senior year so much easier!

For more advice on choosing the right college, check out the advice our student vloggers have to offer on the CollegeXpress YouTube channel!

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About Nefertiti Herbert

I'm a 16-year-old public high school student who finds enjoyment in reading, writing, and advanced music performance. When you come from a small town like mine, it’s important that you discover worlds other than your immediate one, and these three things have helped me achieve that.


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