Education

Ready for a College Road Trip?

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With more than 3,800 institutions in the U.S., choosing the right college is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make. When submitting your application and narrowing down your options, it’s a good time to get a snapshot of what makes your college selections unique. Here are some factors to consider:

  • So, what’s motivating you to go to college? Think about that for a moment. It’s a self-reflective first step to help you understand what you want. Jot down your strengths and weaknesses, your dreams and passions. Much like individuals, each college is quite unique. Colleges can be two-year or four-year, but technical colleges offer diploma and certificate programs. Public and private colleges vary in size, resources and financial aid availability. Search the Internet for college guide resources and narrow down the schools that fit your needs. The College Board’s website is a good start.

  • How many people will be going to your college? If you don’t mind a little anonymity and have no problem with large numbers, it can help you determine your comfort level with populous colleges and universities. Or would you prefer a slightly smaller atmosphere? However, you need to consider more than just student population. Review different sized schools, listing the pros and cons to decide what’s right for you. Some factors to consider: type of college, class size, accessibility to faculty and learning style of each institution.

  • Close to home vs. far from home. Choosing an in-state or out-of-state college is a big decision, especially when it comes to your finances. Tuition varies for out-of-state colleges, but it generally costs more than staying close to home. If you plan on living at home to save on the cost of housing, consider colleges close by. Visiting home can costs you hundreds in airfare. Many students won’t be able to make the trip often. Think about the importance of those family and friend support systems.

  • You don’t necessarily need to pick a major before you choose a college. Very few high school students have enough information or experience to decide their major. Take full advantage of the extra time you’ve got to really investigate what drives you, . Research academically balanced or liberal arts colleges that offer a range of majors and programs so you can explore all your interests easily.

  • It’s better to apply to only one or two long-shot or schools. You don’t want to put all your hopes into a school where you may not get accepted. You should have a few fall back schools, but be choosy with them. Don’t apply to a school you know nothing about just because you’ll be accepted.

  • Choosing a college just because a friend or significant other is going there is not a good idea. Instead, select a college that matches your goals and aspirations. Otherwise you may endanger you own future success. Finding a good college to fit you requires research, time and thoughtfulness. Most college websites have great information about the culture of the campus.

  • There’s no substitute for firsthand experience. Do not commit to a college before an in-person visit and tour. By visiting your top two or three choices, you will get the overall feel of the college. When visiting a college, eat at the dining hall, take a tour, visit a class in your major, talk with students and professors and always take lots of notes.

For tips on college selection, visit Collegeboard.org