One of the most overwhelming parts of the college selection process is the sheer number of options to choose from. Even if you have a general idea of what you want to study, it is easy to be intimidated by all the different colleges that offer your desired major. This scenario can lead to students limiting the number of schools they research or choosing the wrong college altogether.
Over the years, I have spoken to many graduates regarding the college application process. Many of them talked about not knowing where to start and often just simply choosing a school without doing the proper research. As I have documented in past posts if you are going to dedicate four years and thousands of dollars to a college than you need to be sure it is the best fit for you.
As a high school student looking at colleges, it is important to remember that you are unique and that you should never make decisions based on what everyone else is doing. Before you start spending time researching and visiting colleges, take the time to think about who you are a person and student. Only you know what kind of environment and situation you need to be successful. To get started on this journey of self-discovery, I have listed a few key items to think about when determining what type of college is right for you.
Class size is an aspect of college that often gets overlooked. As a high school student, you are used to a classroom of fewer than 25 students. In college, class sizes will vary based on the course, the major, and the school you are attending. Some colleges will offer class sizes that are similar to a high school setting. Others conduct the majority of their courses in large lecture halls where you could be seated with 50-100 other students.
When you start looking at schools, figure out how important class size is to your success as a student. Are you someone who benefits from individualized attention? Do you learn best when you can interact directly with the teacher? If this sounds like you, then one of your first research questions should be how large the class sizes are. There is nothing wrong with deciding that a huge lecture hall is not for you. The important thing is that you are putting yourself in an environment that is best suited for your learning needs.
College campuses come in all shapes and sizes. The stereotypical college tends to be large, with many buildings sprawled out across several campuses. However, smaller colleges can and will offer the same level of education. Do not buy in the myth that the bigger the college, the better it is. It is not about what works for most people. It is what works best for you.
If you attend a college with multiple campuses, you may be forced to take a bus to each class. This might not seem like a big deal at first. However, you have to factor in all the other new things that you will be getting used to. I have spoken to several students who have spoken about how the transition became too overwhelming and their grades suffered as a result. Some of these students were unable to recover and ended up transferring back home.
How are you when it comes to time management? Do you think you will be able to thrive in a scenario where your three classes from the day are all in different areas? If yes, then, by all means, continue to look at those large sprawling campuses. However, if the situation seems overwhelming, you may want to look at colleges that will allow you to take all your classes within walking distance of each other. Again, there is no wrong answer here. It’s about knowing what works for you. The last thing you want is to be so stressed about getting to the class that it takes away from your ability to learn and grow as a student.
Distance From Home
Another common stereotype surrounding college is the idea that you must go away to school. Society often portrays college as this four-year party and that the only way to get the right “college experience” is to live in the dorm, away from your parents, family, and friends. This is not only false but is a dangerous trap that many students fall into.
Yes, there is a benefit in going away to college. You get to meet new people, experience new things and learn how to be independent. That being said, just like everything else on this list, it’s not for everyone. It is a significant life change that requires the ability to transition quickly in new surroundings. Not only are you getting used to a new city, friends, and bedroom, but you will be doing all of this while taking new, challenging courses.
This is not an impossible task. Thousands of students do it successfully every year. The key is to understand if you are that type of student. Will you thrive in the situations I just mentioned? Perhaps you benefit from being surrounded by family and friends. Contrary to popular belief, you can still get a valuable college experience by staying local and commuting to class. The important part is that you are honest with yourself from the start to avoid making a costly mistake in the future.
There is no one right answer when deciding what makes the right college. The answer is different for each student because each student is unique. Everyone reading this post has different strengths and weaknesses. Only you know what you need to be successful in school and eventually in life. Applying to college is a serious process that deserves the proper time and attention. Set aside the time to understand what you need from the start and you will be able to select a college that will set you up for long term success.
Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.