Committing to a college can be one of the most important decisions you make. The task isn’t for the faint of heart, as it requires extensive research. Whether you’ve been committed to pursuing your dream job since you were seven or you’re going off to school with an open mind, you deserve a college experience that’ll help you grow in a direction that allows you to reach your goals academically as well as long term. So how can you picture yourself at college and life postgrad to find the best-fit school?
Setting the wheels in motion
Pre-planning is key. And creating a preliminary strategy by the time you reach second semester of your junior year of high school (at the latest) will put you in the perfect position to educate yourself about what the actual requirements for college admission entail. The first step is making a list of what you’re looking for. Do you want a small school? A public university? A liberal arts college? Determining these aspects can help you identify a catalog of universities that offer an environment that will allow you to thrive. Keeping a limited yet concise list of options as opposed to a large directory of schools that don’t fit your needs will allow you to focus your interests on a smaller range of schools, ultimately enabling you to make a better decision when you finally choose one. Financial requirements also play a huge role in this process. Taking this into consideration and recruiting a parent early on to assist you will prove extremely helpful.
Conducting in-person vs. online research
Campus tours are an important tool in the college search. Seeing a university in person as opposed to online can greatly affect your decision and can provide you with a “feel” for the school’s community. You’ll get to see everything with your own eyes rather than the filter college admission offices may try to portray on their website. Your comfort level is of utmost importance, so talk to current students during your tour to get an honest opinion from someone who’s actually living the life. Auditing a class is also a great way to gain firsthand knowledge and can often be arranged through the college admission office.
If you plan to attend college in your hometown or state, reach out to friends and family. Chances are they have connections who may be able to shed light on local colleges based on their experiences. Your high school counselor can also be a great source of information, as they have likely successfully guided many students through the process over the years by helping them figure out where they want to be in the future. U.S. News & World Report also posts yearly college overviews based a variety of factors, ranging from majors, locations, prices, and other amenities to college lifestyle and alumni highlights. This tool can help you research, compare, and even discover programs you may be unfamiliar with.
Finding your community
If you don’t have the means to tour the specific colleges on your list, don’t worry! Thankfully, you can still test the waters through social media. Look at the social channels of your schools of interest as well as their student body and see how they’re portraying themselves as well as how they’re viewed by their students. Social media will also help you identify if your desired community has a presence on campus. Diversity is extremely important. Everyone needs a community, and if you go to a college and realize you don’t have a group of people who share your life experiences, you may feel alienated. Check out the school’s list of clubs and organizations and gauge which university hosts groups that are right for you. Most will offer leadership and Greek life organizations, but some of the smaller schools may have limited access to specialized groups or co-op undertakings.
Making connections for future success
Once you’ve committed to a college or university, keep in touch with your assigned counselor as well as the school’s career center. Establishing these connections early on will keep you on track with your academics and put you at the top of the list should an internship or other experiential learning opportunity that aligns with your interests comes along. The career center is also useful for getting résumé and cover letter advice and keeping track of events like job fairs. Accessing and utilizing these resources can open doors, thereby making your future seem a bit less daunting.
Putting all the pieces together
College isn’t just about rounding out your education; it’s also for finding your passions and becoming a responsible adult. If you begin college with a certain trajectory and find something else that sparks a fascination in you, follow your instincts. You’re not a failure if you change your mind—you’re an evolving human being. This also applies to schools. If you were head over heels in love with a college when you first enrolled but later realize the school isn’t for you, that’s valid. It’s not your fault if a university doesn’t live up to your expectations, and you have every right to start your search over and transfer to a place that’ll provide you with what you need. These four years are incredibly important, and you deserve to grow in a place that‘ll nurture your mind as well as your passion.
“Oh, The Places You’ll Go”
Classic Dr Seuss. We all read it and maybe were even inspired by it as kids. Once you graduate from college, it becomes reality. If you land your dream job that perfectly aligns with what you’ve learned over the past four years, congrats! If this isn’t the case, don’t fret. Many college grads end up working in an industry only minimally related to their major, or sometimes even completely unrelated. The beauty of a college education is it serves as the foundation of your future. It allows you to grow into an independent and self-reliant person. Completing this milestone will prove you’re capable of doing whatever you put your mind to, and the satisfaction of achievement will serve as motivation to keep you moving forward, even if there ends up being a change in plans. You’ve got this. Now just go give it your best!
Need a break from reading articles? Keep working on the college process with tips and advice on the CollegeXpress YouTube channel!