In the United States, there are thousands of colleges to choose from. With all the choices and factors involved, figuring out which one is best for you may seem difficult. You may be looking into the locations, sizes, and areas of study that colleges offer, but there’s so much more to consider. Don’t procrastinate your search for the perfect college; start now so you are ready to apply and enroll before the deadlines.
Here are 9 steps to help you begin the college selection process:
Step 1: Make A List
Write down all of the factors you want to consider when looking for the right college. Making a list of everything you expect out of a college will help narrow down your search. You can delete your options that do not fit all of your basic needs and expectations. Then you will be able to start looking into the ones that do fit them. The Princeton Review has a great resource to helping you look at options for majors.
Step 2: Rank Your Priorities
Prioritize the factors on your initial list. Rank them from most important to least important. When you are looking at different colleges, make sure to consider the ones that include the factors most important to you. The ones that are not as important can be left as options, but not counted out completely. You can then research colleges that provide all the important aspects to you, and make a list of the prospective colleges.
Step 3: Visit The Prospective Colleges
If possible, make an appointment or plan to visit the campus of prospective colleges. You can check out the dorms, check out the campus life, and talk to students or faculty members. Make sure to bring a list of questions that you would like answered. If your prospective colleges are not nearby, you can call and set up a phone interview.
Step 4: Focus On A Goal
Selecting the perfect college for you may include many aspects such as cost, campus life, and academics. But most importantly, your overall career goal should be the focus. There are so many factors around the college experience that it’s easy to lose that focus and get caught up in everything else. If you are not decided on a specific degree or career goal, then at least have a general direction in mind. It is difficult to narrow down your college search if there are no goals to follow. You can always change your mind later, even after attending college for some time. Setting a goal now to start off with will help in the college selection process.
Step 5: Research The Schools
Look up college rankings and degrees that each college offers. Research and check out reviews. But don’t limit your search to the internet: speaking with faculty members, prior students, or going in person will help you see the reality of what each school provides. Internet searches can often provide false information, so don’t base your decisions solely on those. If you can’t check out the college in person, you can make some phone calls to speak with people about your prospective colleges. Research should include more than internet search. This way you get a clear picture of which schools may best fit your expectations.
Step 6: Check Out The Job Connections
Many schools offer career service centers on campus, or even online. These help you set a plan for completing your degree for a job that you are striving to get. They can show you the possibilities you have for each career and what degree you need to acquire to get each job. There may also be job fairs and on-campus interviews provided. A career counselor will be able to inform you of the job connections offered at each school.
Step 7: Compare Financial Aid Packages
There are tools online, and on college websites, that can give you an idea of the financial aid packages each school offers. You can search tuition, costs, fees, grants, and loans. Whether or not you qualify for financial aid, it’s a good idea to compare these options. They have varying tuition and costs, with many different types of financial aid options. Loans also vary on amounts and interest. Having information on financial aid options will get you prepared for the costs that may accrue at your prospective schools. You can find more information on FAFSA and essential financial aid information here.
Step 8: Be Prepared Before Deadlines Draw Near
School have different application deadlines, so make sure you take note of those and prepare in advance. Also, it is important to communicate with the prospective schools. Take note of the deadlines for each so that you can have all the necessary documents submitted in a timely manner. Make a schedule or mark your calendar with important dates and give yourself plenty of time beforehand to meet those deadlines.
Step 9: Go Over Step 1 Again Before Your Decision Is Finalized
Once you have narrowed down the list of colleges to the ones that you are interested in attending, you are ready to revisit step 1. Your factors to consider may have included location, size, areas of study, disability accommodation, campus demographics, housing options, cost, transportation availability, religious affiliation, etc. Whatever is listed, take into consideration before making your choice. Going over all the factors on your list from step 1 again will confirm that you have selected the perfect college for you.
You can check out our list of The 25 Best Online Colleges here.