#collegeselectionprocess

How To Choose a College That Fits Your Specific Needs

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

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.

Campus Size

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.

Conclusion

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.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.

3 Ways To Use Your Summer Vacation To Prepare For The College Selection Process

By Kyle Grappone

Summer vacation is in full swing as thousands of high school students are entering into the freest and unchained part of their year. For many, this is a time to go to the beach, hang out with friends, and watch an unhealthy amount of Netflix. While breaks are essential to restore and replenish your mental health and well being, it is crucial that this time not be lost entirely. For most high school students, some part of the college research and selection process is right around the corner.

Ahead of the Pack

Almost all American High School Students enjoy 10-12 weeks of summer vacation. The majority of these students will do very little of anything school related. Meaning, those who take the time out to plan for the upcoming school year will be miles ahead of those who do not. Being ahead of the competition is never more critical than when it comes to applying for colleges.

Why Should You Care?

If you are currently a student on vacation, you are probably asking why you should be thinking about applying for colleges when it is seemingly months away. Yes, technically, you could wait until the fall to begin and continue your college selection process. However, that is what everyone else is doing. Take this time off to stand up and stand out. Why? College admissions standards are rising due to the increased amount of applicants. The competition for state colleges has increased dramatically due to the rising costs of private colleges and universities. Summer vacation is the perfect time to devote your time and energy to researching and finding the best college for you.

#1 – Conduct Self Discovery

All of your tests and finals are officially done. You no longer have to cram for exams or spend time writing papers. This means you have more time to focus on yourself. Use this time to answer a few key questions before you begin making one of the most significant decisions of your life up to this point.

First, why are you going to college? Have you ever thought about that question before? Most students plan to go to college because they believe they are supposed to or their parents want them to go. These are not sufficient reasons to dedicate a significant amount of your time, energy, and resources to something. Think about why you have chosen college as the next step in your life and what are you looking to get out of it.

Second, how are you going to pay for it? I have surveyed over 100 college graduates regarding their time in high school and college. The biggest regret they have is not learning more about the loans they are signing up for. In my online course, How To Select The Right College For You, we dedicate an entire lesson to understanding student loans and another to determining if a college is worth the money. For now, start by talking to your parents about what you can afford and determine a rough estimate of how much money you may need to take out. Then make a list of all the questions you have about student loans and seek out help from a financial professional.

Lastly, what type of future are you trying to build? I challenge all my coaching clients to determine the kind of person they want to become to plan for the kind of future they are working towards. Use this time off to think about what you enjoy doing and what brings you the most satisfaction. Begin to envision the type of life and career you are looking to create for yourself. This will give you clarity when you are learning about schools and the programs they offer.

#2 – Plan 3 College Visits

Most colleges conduct their official, group tours in the fall and spring. That does not mean you cannot conduct your own tour this summer. By touring a campus in the summer, you will be able to enjoy the visit stress-free. If you miss something, you can always come back during the year.

If you already have one of several colleges on your list, reach out to the admissions office and express your interest in taking a tour. Chances are high someone in the office can arrange to meet you on campus for an afternoon. A private tour is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the school and ask all the questions you want without the craziness of a large group. It also allows you to get used to touring campuses and learn what to look out for.

Aim to complete three college visits. If you do not have that long of list or it is not logistically possible then visit your local campuses. Even if you cannot schedule an official tour, download a campus map and give yourself a tour. Once you have your tours set, make sure you create a full list of questions. These questions are designed to learn about the culture of the school; their plan to prepare you for the workforce and their dedication to your progress and development.

#3 – Talk To Those Who Have Come Before You

This time in your life is a complicated one. You undoubtedly have a lot of questions about colleges, universities, majors, student loans, dorming, and more. Luckily for you, this entire process has been done before, by people you know. The answers you seek usually lie with those you have come before you.

Instead of waiting until the fall and the return of tests and projects, use your downtime to compile a list of questions you have. What about college is stressing you out? What about going away to school are you nervous about? What about financial aid confuses you? Now is the time to organize your thoughts and figure out who to talk to.

Begin to look into your inner circle of family and friends for recent college graduates. They will be to provide insights into the process, what to do, and what to avoid. Use this time off to set up lunch and coffee appointments. Be sure to bring your list of specific questions and record their answers.

Lastly, create a LinkedIn profile this summer and connect with alumni of the colleges you are looking at. Again, these former students can give you insights and truths you will not find on the school website or on an official campus tour. Be sure to respect their time by providing a short list of detailed questions. Thank them for their time and inquire if you may keep in touch throughout the process. These types of connections will prove invaluable as you move forward in your college search.

Conclusion

Summer is a time to prepare for the next step in your life. Yes, you should still go to the beach, see friends, and watch Netflix. However, be sure to use some of this free time to get clear on your goals and vision. Determine what you are looking to get out of college and what type of future you are working towards. Your future self will thank you for it.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.

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