Selecting a school to educate you for your future is an important decision to make, especially when there are thousands of colleges, universities, and technical schools to choose from. It is imperative that there be a good "fit" between you and your college or university. Follow these steps to assist in the college selection process so you will pick the right school for you.
Step 1: Identify Important School Attributes
You must first identify what is important to you in a school. Do you want to go to a large or small college? Do you want to go to an in-state or out-of-state school? Is money an issue? Are extracurricular activities and events important to you? Does the school have to have a wide variety of majors to choose from? Would you prefer a school in an urban or rural environment? Is it essential that the school have a good athletics program? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself when deciding what factors are vital to you. Make a list of important school attributes and then move on to step 2.
Step 2: Search for Schools that Fit Your Criteria
After you have identified what is important, you can begin researching schools that match your criteria. Meet with your school counselor to discuss your list of criteria and ask if he/she knows of schools that you might be interested in attending. Search the Internet for schools of interest. Visit a variety of websites so you can compare and contrast different schools. Make a list of the schools you could see yourself attending and prepare for the next step.
Step 3: Visit Campuses
Once you have a list of potential schools, you can begin visiting the campuses. The summer before your senior year is an opportune time to visit college campuses but feel free to visit schools beforehand if the opportunity arises. While you are on campus, be sure to ask any questions you have about the college. Talk to current students, instructors, admissions officers, and financial aid officers. Sit in on a couple of classes and eat the campus food. Try to experience as much as you can about the college while you are there and write down pros and cons of each campus so you can begin the next step of the college selection process.
Step 4: Compare Schools on Your List
After you have visited the campuses on your list, you need to compare them and try to narrow down your list. Are there aspects of some schools that you like but didn't like about others? If you didn't like the campus atmosphere of one of the colleges after you visited it, maybe you should delete that college from your list. Try to narrow down your list to about three reach schools and three safety schools in order to be ready for step 5.
Step 5: Start Applying to Schools
Now that you have a final list of schools that you would like to attend, you can begin filling out applications for admission (usually around October of your senior year). Be sure to know the application deadlines for each college you are applying to. Try to send in your applications before winter break of your senior year at the latest. Be sure to fill the applications out carefully and have an impressive essay (if required). When this step is completed, you will have a waiting period until you can complete the final step.
Step 6: Decide Which School to Attend
If you are accepted to more than one school, you still have to make a final decision of which one to attend. If you qualify for financial aid, you will receive award notifications from potential schools around March or April of your senior year. These notifications will let you know if you have received any financial aid. You should compare the award offers from each school, which may help you make a final decision. The amount you are awarded at each school will vary depending on the cost of attendance. Go over all the factors and then make a final decision. Be sure to decline admission to schools you will not be attending. If you have questions or are confused about your acceptance information, call your contact at that school. He/she will be happy to help clarify.
Selecting the right college is critical because you will be spending the next four or more years of your life there. If you follow the above-mentioned steps, you will be able to make an informed decision about which school you would like to attend.