Before filling out loan applications and packing up to go off to college a student needs to decide where to attend college. Every year a new crop of high school students is faced with this decision. Do you go to a school nearby or travel out-of-state? Which is preferable public or private university? The type of school you ultimately decide to attend depends entirely on what you are looking for in a college.
With such an arduous process it’s best to get started as soon as possible. The winter of the junior year in high school is a good time to begin researching college. When selecting schools to apply to it might be helpful to set some parameters. What is too costly? Too far to reach by car? Is a school too small, too big, too urban? As you select your “wish list,” you need to set the parameters. Some of these considerations are geographic, some deal with the manner in which the school is funded and some deal with the size of the student population.
Do you know what you want to study? Not all departments are created equal, even within the same school, so it’s a good way to narrow down your choices. It might be a good time to look at faculty bios and see what their interests and specialties are.
In-state or out-of-state? Some students prefer to be closer to their family during school. Other students prefer to go off and explore different parts of the country. Perhaps you’ve grown up by the ocean and want to spend your colleges years in a more wintry climate. Don’t forget to consider the weather of your potential new home, after all, you’ll be there for a few years.
Will you be comfortable in a school of 1,000? Of 50,000? So you like crowds and educational anonymity, or do you want to feel like you know everyone on campus?
Public or private?
Private schools tend to be smaller and have fewer students in a classroom. Typically there is a higher cost associated with private schools. Public schools tend to be more affordable for students who qualify for in-state tuition.
Consider the setting
If you’ll be spending four years on campus, find a place that you’ll feel comfortable living during that time. These questions are a good place to start:
Rural: Would I mind being in the middle of nowhere?
Suburban: Do I need the bustle of a city, or the quiet of the country? Is this too much of an in-between for me?
Urban: Would I mind being smack in the middle of a city? Would I mind possibly not having a campus?
Be mindful of the tuition when looking at colleges. Check the school’s website to see if they offer any scholarships or financial aid that you may be eligible for.
Take your time to visit the schools you are interested in. College visits should start during the summer going into your senior year. But also, a student should try to see schools while they’re in normal session to get the real flavor of the place. Remember, keep your mind open to various options early on in the process–don’t exclude a school just because it doesn’t meet every single one of your preferences. When your list starts getting smaller, you can be more selective.
Above all, be sure that you’re prepared for the application process, but remember to keep your sanity throughout it all.