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Rebecca here again! With spring in the air, I am most excited about my local ice-cream parlors reopening! I wanted to write about beginning your college search and I couldn’t help comparing how the decisions you make regarding your school are similar to ordering a frozen treat! While at school, I worked as a freshman resident advisor. I know decision-making can be hard, but if you really think about what YOU want, you will have a great first year at the perfect school for you! Have any questions? Make sure to send them to me at rebecca@thecollegeadviceguy.com.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are 7,021 post-secondary title IV institutions (colleges and universities) in the United States and there are even more world-wide! That’s quite a lot of choices for a decision you will hopefully have to make one time. Can you imagine choosing one Sundae out of 7,000 possible choices that you would eat for the next four years!? Luckily, many schools offer the same basic package and this is where your personal preferences come into play. Each school, like different ice cream flavors, will have its pros and cons. I’ve broken down the college process into the steps of ordering an ice cream sundae because who doesn’t like ice cream? Creating your perfect Sundae of a school can be tricky but these few tips can help you find the school with the best harmony of flavors for you!

What Size

Being realistic about necessity and affordability

Any time you walk into an ice cream shop, you know the first thing you’ll be asked: “Small, Medium or Large?” Sorry, there aren’t any “kiddie” sizes being offered here! You’re ready to go to school on your own and become an adult! First you must decide what size school you want to attend. You may not have had a lot of choice in the size of the high school you attended, but not anymore! You now are confronted with the ability to choose where to spend the next four years. Picking can be easy if you know your likes and dislikes. Do you like the class sizes you had in high school? Would you want to attend classes that have more or fewer other students in them? Do you mind attending lectures with 100 other students? Would you feel a responsibility to attend class even if you are a number to your professor? Do you feel comfortable with a small college community? Answering these questions and being honest with yourself will already set you up with a list of your eligible schools. I put this first because I believe your decision here knocks out many choices and focuses your search for the rest of the process.

So, now you have a general idea of what size you want to order. But before selecting that size, you are probably going to need to check how much cash you have in your pocket! So you check out the board of prices and realize this frozen dessert is going to cost you more than you thought. Sometimes the sticker price of your school is much larger than you and/or your family is willing to commit. Barring any scholarships you are awarded, student debt after school is a major problem for graduates right now. Just as you would never want to start eating your ice cream only to find you forgot your wallet at home, you do not want to put your family in a financial situation that is overwhelming after a year and is difficult to get out of later on. Make sure you are realistic about what you can afford at this time. Maybe two years at a community college would help you better afford your dream school when you transfer. Perhaps in-state tuition would put less stress on your bank account than an out-of-state one. Consider if you only need a two year to begin your dream job or advance to the position you want within your career. Talk with your parents and decide on a range of prices you are comfortable with. This does not mean you should not take a chance on a higher priced school, because you may receive enough aid to afford it. Just make sure you know what your family will consider to be “enough”.

Great! Now that you have a general idea about the size you want and can afford, your on your way to ordering the best Sundae ever! but you are not close to done yet! Check back soon for a discussion about your next choices! Hopefully making these decisions can help get you started on your college application process!

buy propecia generic U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (NCES 2014-015),Chapter 2., http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=84

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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 thought that touring was the best part of the whole selection process, and I hope you will too! Here are some tips I figured out along the way! Have any questions? Make sure to send them to me at rebecca@thecollegeadviceguy.com.

So you have selected some schools you think you are interested in attending and now it is time to check them out in real life! Tours can be daunting, but are always an exciting experience: Each visit may be your first time experiencing your future school! If you are nervous, don’t worry! The school is going to be trying to impress you. Maybe you’re preoccupied by the thought of all those older students looking at you and think the tour guide will be considering you during the tour as a precursory part of your acceptance- trust me, they are not grading you based on if you have a “silly question”! There are ways however, to be a more informed tourist to your potential school and we have broken it into 6 main tips here:

  1. Before you tour, do your homework!

College campuses are usually fairly large and can be quite confusing! If you are able to have a bit of a frame of reference, you will have a better recollection when you reflect on the different schools you have visited. It is quite easy to confuse which dining hall was at which school and what school had the dorm you really liked.

A lot of schools now offer virtual tours on their websites, or have photo galleries of the campus. Use these to become familiar with the campus or to even eliminate schools. I once got to a school for a tour and never even got out of the car! Just pulling up and seeing the campus was enough to know it was not the right fit for me.

 

  1. Take notes!

Don’t worry, this isn’t a suggestion to walk and write at the same time, but after the tour, maybe during your ride home, take notes of the things that were positives for you and the things that you didn’t like so much. Also be sure to write down any questions you had that maybe you hadn’t asked during the tour. You may be able to find the information on the school’s website or can call the admissions office later to see if they can answer it.

 

  1. Check out the students!

These people are going to be your peers and friends for the next four (and hopefully beyond) years. Seeing students in action will help you see if you will fit in! Consider going when an event that interests you is occurring. If you are interested in playing sports at any level, try to go when you see a game scheduled! Or, if you have a club in high school that has a chapter at the college, consider contacting the club to see if you could come to an event or meeting. This will give you a better idea of the student life!

My sister went to visit a large, highly rated University where everyone was walking around with headphones in and no one was really walking in groups or socializing. Even though this was a generalized representation of the campus, it helped my sister to immediately know that it was not the right pick for her!

 

  1. SO… go when students will be there!

Touring a school during break may be convenient with your high school schedule, but remember that you will be missing one big aspect of campus- the atmosphere! Touring a deserted campus may not give you the best sense for what the school is like. You probably will only be meeting the tour guides who generally are some of the most outgoing people on campus and hardly represent the whole student body!

Remember too that even schools that are not considered commuter schools will have fewer students around on the weekends. Students may be going home, or they may be heading off campus to volunteer, go to work, or an intercollegiate sports game. And let’s face it- they are college students! Some are probably sleeping in or are camped out in the dining hall or library.

 

  1. Ask any questions you have

Now is the perfect time to ask that question that Google can’t quite help with, but you desperately want to know! “How’s the food in the dining hall? What are the freshmen dorms really like? How often do students pull all-nighters?” These are questions everyone starting college has at first and the school selected and trained their best students to answer these questions for you. Don’t be nervous to speak up either. This is your opportunity to find out all you can about your future investment!

 

  1. Got in? Go back!

Once you receive an acceptance from a school, they will usually have an accepted students’ day which is where they really bring out the big guns! Make sure to go to this day because much more specific information will be given out here and more opportunities for you to explore the campus will be available. You may be able to attend a mock class, hear presentations from the department of your major and will be able to attend information sessions on getting financial aid, living in on-campus housing and what courses your academic plan will require.

 

The college acceptance process can be a long one filled with forms and essays, but the opportunity to tour the schools is an exciting break from the hard work. You will be amazed at the facilities available to you in college and you will get a glimpse of the independence that awaits you in college. Be sure to follow these tips, and hopefully you will find your perfect fit school!

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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.