If you're conducting your college search right now, you may have a lot of things you’re looking for in your academic experience. You might even find yourself juggling multiple schools and wondering which one suits your academic and personal interests more. While the process of finding the right-fit college can be challenging, it’s important to choose an environment that you’ll enjoy being in and one that will allow you to pursue your many interests rather than just one field or passion. Here are a few tips to assist you in the process.
Make connections with current students and alumni
One key way to find a school that will allow you to pursue all your interests is to make and maintain connections with alumni and current students at the schools you’re interested in. Even if you don’t know these individuals well, a simple conversation about their experiences may give you insight and help you consider things you hadn’t known previously about a school. These conversations can provide candid experiences and allow you to think about how you would fit into that school’s atmosphere. Talk to people with various interests that align with yours (easily found through websites like LinkedIn) so you get different perspectives. For example, if you’re interested in research and athletics, find someone currently involved in research at a specific school and another person who’s on the school’s basketball team. Ask them what they’ve enjoyed about their involvement in these programs, what difficulties they’ve run into, and what they’re looking forward to. Don’t hesitate when asking questions; finding the answers you’re looking for is important since it can contribute to making your final college decision!
Make a list of your interests to guide your research
Another important step in your college search is to do your own digging, obviously— and college websites are a valuable source of information for any prospective student. However, before visiting any website, you should make a list of the things you’re looking for in a college. What are your top interests? What opportunities do you hope a college will offer you? Consider academics, athletics, study abroad programs, student organizations, and more. Note these interests and have them on hand while you’re searching. When visiting a college’s website, look into the sections that capture your attention based on your list. Typical section headings you may come across include “Research,” “Student Life,” and “Athletics,” among others. Read more about what kind of programs the college offers in these sections and compare them to what you want and which major, minor, concentration, and other programs you may be able to combine to pursue all your interests. This will allow you to find colleges that align with all your interests and help narrow down your options.
Get a feel for the environment by visiting campus
Lastly, you need to visit campuses you’re interested in to get a feel for a school’s environment. I recommend this as one of your final steps to aid you in making a decision after you’ve narrowed down your options. You’ll only be deciding between a few colleges at that point, which may make your trips easier to plan and execute. Visiting colleges can benefit you in several ways. You can compare schools’ digital presence to how they look in person, which often gives you an idea of how honest the school is in portraying themselves online. When visiting, you may find out things such as whether the campus is quiet or lively, whether academic buildings provide you with the resources you researched, and more. If you’re looking for things such as a shorter walk between classes or nearby food options, you’ll be able to find these things out on your visits too. You could also meet faculty and students on campus and discuss opportunities with them that you may be interested in to get a better idea of what they’re really like.
In your continued college search, make sure you consider these tips to assist you along the way. Keeping this advice in mind will make your search smoother and give you an outline that helps you find schools that offer opportunities for you based on your collective interests. Refer to your interests again and again, and focus your search on them until you can choose the college that best fits you.
Keep all your college research organized by using our College Search Spreadsheet Template!