The processs of deciding where to go to college is like an international flight: it’s long and it makes your back hurt. That said, you should at least consider visiting your top schools in order to get a feel for the overall vibe of the place. Here’s a few tips to help you make the most of it:
1. Explore. Spend time roaming college campuses in order to get a sense of their sizes and landscapes. For example, colleges in the city look much different than suburban ones, which tend to be greener. You should also pay attention to the overall architecture. Do you want a campus with a classic look or a modern one? It’s up to you, so take a good look around.
2. Take a class. If you have an idea of what you might like to study then drop in on a class so that you can get a sense of the classroom and learning environment. Professors usually don’t mind, and the academic aesthetic of different colleges are pretty distinct, so why not?
3. Talk. Most colleges are rife with students who are playing Frisbee on the lawn, sunbathing, or heading to class, so don’t be shy in striking up a conversation or two. Ask students what they like about their their classes, as well their campus life. Ask them what they don’t like. Ask yourself: are these students you could get along with?
4. Try the food. Since you’re moving out of the house, you have to fend for yourself when it comes to food, meaning you’ll be taking advantage of your college’s cafeteria. Therefore, while you’re on campus, stop in for a bite. If you can stomach the menu then that’s a good sign.
5. Visit again. To make sure a college is a perfect fit, visit more than once. Can you see yourself living there all year? Do you like it just as much on rainy days as you do when it’s sunny? If the answer is yes, then consider your college visit a success.
Picking the right college to attend is a mind-boggling process of elimination. But there are thousands of schools to research, meaning that process could take forever if you don’t focus your search. Fortunately there are a lot of resources out there designed to help you. Below are some of the best:
1. College Board. A nonprofit that focuses on education, you might already be familiar with the College Board thanks to standardized exams such as the SATs. But this organization also provides a nifty college search tool that allows you to narrow down your choices according to distinct categories such as learning environment and popular activities.
2. College Navigator. Run by the U.S. Department of Education, College Navigator is an official resource that’s also pretty reliable, providing exhaustive information from enrollment data, net price, and even campus security statistics.
3. Princeton Review. Every guidance office has a copy of their college rankings for reason: they’re pretty accurate, as well as comprehensive. They also offer insider’s admissions advice, meaning they have your best interests in mind.
4. US News. To determine their rankings, U.S. News and World Report weighs the opinions of others. What does that mean, exactly? They ask universities to rank each other in the hopes of creating a fair list so that you can search for the best college without being duped.
5. Forbes. Renowned for their financial prowess, Forbes ranks colleges according their students’ career prospects, graduation rates, and levels of debt. What does that mean for you? You should search for colleges through Forbes if you want to keep your wallet happy.
A bit of advice: while college search engines are handy tools, you shouldn’t take them as gospel. While they shed a little light on all the college options that are available, they don’t tell the whole story. To get a better picture, visit campuses, seek advice from counselors, try to connect with alumni, and keep your options open.
If you like throwing around a football more than life itself, then that’s great, but it’s time to get down to the brass tax: if you’re banking on an athletic scholarship to pay for your education, it might be time to admit that there aren’t enough for everyone. According to The College Solution, the odds of getting an athletic scholarship are as low as 2%, and the average scholarship amount is only $11,000. That doesn’t mean you have to give up on your reveries of a field of dreams, but you might want to consider the following:
- Pursue merit scholarships. What’s much more common and potentially bigger than an athletic scholarship? A merit scholarship, which free money that you get if you perform as well in class as you do on the field.
- Intramurals. Even if you go to a school that isn’t particularly regarded for its sports, you’ll still likely have plenty of opportunities to play. For instance, nearly every school boasts extremely active intramural programs, meaning you can keep playing the sport you love, no sweat.
- College is a big place. At college, sports aren’t the only game in town, as there are so many activities available that your head is guaranteed to spin when you have to decide which clubs you want to join and which extracurriculars you want to participate in. Not playing sports in college isn’t the end of the world. After all, you’re there to get an education.
1. Choose used. Before you drop bundles of cash on books wrapped in shiny plastic, do a little bit of research. Often, you’ll be able to save big if you’re willing to shop used. And as long as you shop with a seller that assures quality, you don’t have to worry about missing pages.
2. Compare prices. While you might automatically jump onto Amazon, or just use your school’s store to buy your books, you should take an extra few minutes to shop around. There are many booksellers to choose from, so make sure you score the best price out there.
3. Network with friends. Though your school probably offers a lot of different classes, you’ll likely know someone who’s previously owned the book you currently need. Odds are your friends and classmates would sell you their books at a fair price, so ask around ahead of time to ensure a good deal.
4. Shop online. With brick and mortar stores going the way of the dinosaur, there’s a whole world of savings possibilities online, especially if you want to take advantage of used books or rentals. Compare your options at places like ValoreBooks, who have 15 million titles in stock at huge discounts. You can save up to 90% on books that might otherwise cost you hundreds.
Scoring good grades is hard enough. Maintaining them throughout your education is a whole different beast. Here’s where to start:
1. Set goals. Students who earn high marks don’t do so by mistake. They work hard. To motivate yourself, set the bar early. When each semester starts, mentally prepare yourself for the workload by reading the syllabus or even talking to student who previously took the course. Know what GPA you’re happy with. And plan a study route that takes you there.
2. Plan wisely. In college you’re afforded independence, meaning you get to plan your own major, minor, and course schedule. There are a lot of options on the table, so to avoid getting carried away, take the time to write out a tentative plan for your college career. It may seem crazy at first, but it’ll be worth it when you’re clear on what academic requirements you need to satisfy, and when.
3. Go to class. This one should be a no-brainer: you can’t do well if you don’t show up. Besides, you’re at school to learn, so make it count.
4. Go to office hours. Nearly all professors offer at least some office hours, which is time you can meet with your teacher for help. With the opportunity to get some one-on-one instruction, don’t pass on this opportunity. Plus showing interest in class, as well as engaging with the material, can help to boost your participation grade.
5. Study. While you need to hit the books in order to do well, don’t overdo it. If you keep your nose down for too long then you’ll stop absorbing material, and you’ll likely go a little stir crazy. Remember: everything in moderation. That means study throughout the semester instead of cramming in everything at the end.