Hi! My name is Rebecca and I am currently working with the College Advice Guy. I graduated college in May 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree. I know that choosing a college can be a difficult process. You may have a dream school and already know where you want to go. You may have never considered a post-high school education until now. There are a lot of options out there and it can be hard to narrow them down. I want to share a little about my experience. Maybe it will help calm your nerves, or it will evoke some new questions- if so, please email me at Rebecca@thecollegeadviceguy.com.
Making my decision was not an easy process. When I chose to attend my college, it was the biggest decision I had ever made before in my life. I had strongly debated between two schools and the decision due date had forced me to finally choose one. Instead of attending my first choice school, a University which was out-of-state and had a larger student body, I chose an in-state college, smaller and well known for its academics. I was nervous about my decision to not pick my first choice school but it ended up being a great decision!
You can narrow down which schools to apply to by first choosing some factors that are important to you.
First, consider location: This will immediately narrow down your school choices. I knew that I wanted to be on the East Coast and no more than a five hour drive from home. I preferred schools in a suburban area with large cities nearby, but didn’t want anything in the city or a college that sprawled beyond a campus “boundary”.
Second, academics: Maybe you have a specific program in mind and are looking for a school that excels in that area. I had wanted a school well known for its undergraduate programs, but I was not concerned if they did not have the best program specifically for my major, nor did I care if the school offered graduate programs. My ideal school had class sizes not much larger than my high school ones so I could develop personal relationships with professors. I knew that a lecture hall was NOT a good setting for me to learn in- I wanted to be held more accountable.
Additionally look at the lifestyle: The student body, dorms, dining hall, architecture, and extracurriculars all enhance the college experience. Remember though that these things are always changing: There are always new clubs being formed and campuses always have some building or dorm under construction. I had to be able to participate in many activities, and was attracted to places with nice dorms and “normal-looking” groups of students walking around the campus. I had narrowed down my acceptances into two schools I had selected because I liked the Georgian architecture and could imagine myself walking up the stone steps, past the marble columns to my college classes. The dorms seemed to be slightly roomier than a jail cell, and the schools offered a great academic program with a great number of activities and clubs. I had toured and later attended the accepted students’ day for both colleges, really getting to know the most about them once I was accepted.
Always consider your financial situation: The final day until my decision was due to the schools was approaching and I was still worried about making the wrong choice. This University offered so many more clubs and activities, had a larger presence of Greek life, and had a well-known name and record. However, I started getting the feeling that I was just someone in the crowd, and it would be hard to stand out there. This was confirmed to me when I (Not my parents!) called the Admissions Office, shortly before the decision was due. I had not received a scholarship to the University, which, compared to an in-state school, was much more expensive. I decided to make a call to the admissions office to see if I could be reassessed for a scholarship and was told that it was an extensive process of filling out forms and that it would most likely result in a ‘No’. Luckily, I had received a small scholarship to my in-state school, so I called the college also asking if they could reevaluate my scholarship. They returned my call the next day, reporting they were happy to double my scholarship! The communication I had with the in-state school was very reassuring and I felt as though they actually wanted me to attend- so I did!
I was very happy with my choice of school, mostly because I realized that the opportunities I had at school would have been much more competitive at the larger school. I was able to play on the club lacrosse team which made up many of my friends and social activities. I also was able to become the Secretary of my honors society and a Community Advisor in the freshman dorms. The competition for these positions was still fierce, but I felt my school gave everyone the opportunity to achieve something.
College decisions are sometimes difficult, but if you decide what is important to you, you will be able to narrow down your choices. Remember that no school does everything perfect and that many strive towards the same goal, making them similar institutions. Weigh the good against what you dislike and apply to the schools that have the most positive attributes to you. While you may be disappointed with some aspects, your experience will be what you decide to make of it.