Too many students today base their college search decisions solely on factors such as location, reputation of the football team, or the fact that a relative might have attended the institution. Others are swayed by the historical weight of a school or group of schools, such as the Ivy League. You (the student) need to try and find the school (or schools!) that are right for you.
There is a college out there for everyone,for than 3,000 in the US alone, and finding "fit" over "fashion" can make or break your college career. Start by thinking about what makes YOU special. Are you shy or outgoing? Do you learn better in large lectures or small seminars? Do you want to be in a city or maybe a small town is more your speed?
In his book, "College Match" author and college consultant Steven Antonoff provides different questionnaires that lead you to those answers. Once you find out a bit about yourself, you can start your search. One good way to start your college search is by going on the Internet. If you're reading this article you're already familiar with how to look for different information. Using nothing more than your web browser you can look at different locations, search out a major, and compare different schools. Keep an open mind!
The College Board is one place to start. The site has a college matchmaker and college quickfinder, and you can build and save a potential college list. Other sites are Collegedata , collegeview , and Princeton Review . Try out a couple of sites and see which ones you like! They're not just for SAT test prep any more. As you build your list, remember to read about some new schools that you may never have heard of.
Two books that can help you are Loren Pope's "Looking Beyond the Ivy League, Finding the College That's Right for You", and Jay Matthews' "Harvard Schmarvard: Getting beyond the Ivy League to the college that's right for you."
Now you can really being to build your college list. Using one of your online guides, choose about ten colleges to research. Online course catalogs can help you check out what departments around the country are offering.
- Interested in a Women's College?
- What about an historically Black College?
- Overseas study?
- Perhaps you have an interest in music, acting, or visual arts?
Want to stay in-state? The University of Florida and FSU aren't the only games in town; and that's a good thing since they get harder to get into every year! There are many great schools in Florida and across the country, and if you have good grades you might even qualify for a merit scholarship. Go to the website for your state's department of education for information on colleges, universities, community colleges and financial aid information.
Do you have a learning or other disability? Don't let that keep you from going to college! With some research and planning, you can find the school with the faculty and facilities to handle every level of learner.
Now that you have your preliminary list of schools, it's time to go to the college websites.
Check out the departments, majors, and details such as housing, financial aid, and application deadlines. Look at the admissions profiles and see if you fall in line with the schools "average" admitted student in terms of grades and standardized test scores. Your list should include at least two or three schools where you and your guidance counselor feel pretty sure you're going to be admitted and where you would be happy to attend!
You'll want to get in some campus visits. If you can't get to those on your list, try to visit some schools close by to get a feel for the campus. What did you like? What turned you off?
Still only interested in a "top 20" school? Look at admission rates. Some of the Ivy League colleges and other highly selective schools had admissions rates in the single digits for the 2009-2010 year, and numbers this season aren't looking any better. These types of schools should always be considered "reach" schools, even if you fit into their profile!
See, there's a lot more to a college than a name, location or mascot! Now that you know a bit more about your interest and strengths, you can look closely at specific schools and see which one might be the best for YOU. Good luck and have fun.