There’s so many college choices, but you can only choose one...
Choosing a college to go to is probably one of the major parts of your college application journey and also the most important. You’re going to be studying there for just about 4 years so you want to choose wisely! When choosing a college, you also have to make compromises. A college isn’t going to have everything you want. You have to compare and contrast the general information, major and minor selection, extracurricular activities, the location, and lastly the tuition. All the researching can be overwhelming so grab a notebook and a writing utensil so we can get started.
Finding a Major!
First, you want to decide on what you want to major in. Think about what you are passionate about and not what your friends or family suggest you should do.
It’s good to know what you want to major in before hand because when searching for colleges, it can help you narrow down the schools you wish to go to.
However, some students have no idea what they want to major in and decide to apply to schools under undecided.
What If I’m Undecided?
If you have no clue on what you want to major in, there are plenty of quizzes online to help you decide. Loyola University Chicago, Marquette University, Saint Louis University, and Buzz Feed offers quizzes to help.
If you’re still unsure, many colleges allow you to apply as an undecided major. This means that you will take your general classes and then declare your major after your freshman or sophomore year of college.
For those who do not want to take that route, I recommend taking a gap year. This is when you do not enroll in college after high school graduation. You take the year off to pursue community service, travel, working, or another quality use of your time. Most colleges will expect you to explain why you took a gap year so do not take this time to be unproductive.
If you’re not interested in taking a gap year, going to a community college for the first year is also a great alternative because you can get all (or most) of your general courses out of the way and save plenty of money. Your class credits then transfers over with you to the college/university you decide to attend.
Finding General Information
The next step is to start on building a foundation for your college list. The best way to start is to Google, “Top (insert major name) Schools” and pick about no more than 10 from the list in which you can begin to conduct research on. To begin research, you want to start off by noting the general information: the tuition, acceptance rate, graduation rate, location, size, and other important factors to consider. Doing so will help you get an idea on what you’re looking for.
Also, a good way to see “the campus life” is by finding on YouTube if anyone vlogs (a vlog is when someone basically shows what they're doing during the day/week) their college experience, seeing if someone does a campus tour, watching a Q&A about the school, and things in that nature. Keesha Kaylee and Brelynn both are vloggers at Spelman College. Nia Imani is a Hampton University vlogger. Queen Chioma is a Toledo University vlogger. Amber Martin is a vlogger at the University of Tennessee, and of course there are others! If you look, you can possibly find someone that vlogs at a school you’re interested in.
Location! Location! Location!
Another important thing to research while creating your list is researching the location! It’s good to know about the areas you are and are not interested in living in. If you love the city life, going to school in a rural area for 4 years most likely wouldn’t make you happy.
Another important factor of location is climate. It is up to you to decide if you want to spend your time studying near the beach or in the snow!
Try to research the activities and clubs that the colleges you are interested in offer. Participating in extracurriculars will make your college experience so much better! You can pledge to a sorority/fraternity, participate in intramural or varsity sports, join the dance team or band, join clubs, or participate in community service activities with the school.
If you are interested in playing a sport it is important to see that the schools you are interested offer that sport. There are requirements for the NCAA as well as just intramural sports.
If studying abroad is also something you thought about participating in, you want to make sure your school offers that program! Studying abroad is a good way for you to travel the world and learn about different cultures.
The Fun Word Called “Tuition”
The last thing I want to mention is tuition. I put this one last because personally I don’t think this is so important when you’re only creating a list. Many schools do offer scholarships/grants when you receive your acceptance letter. You will never know until you apply so don’t miss out due to the price.
You also want to keep in mind that there is still the possibility that you may not get money to help cover your tuition or that the money you receive isn’t enough so it’s a good idea to have 3-4 in-state schools on your list that you wouldn’t mind attending. These offer in-state tuition which is cheaper for those that live in the state that those who live outside of the state.
So remember, when starting to create your list, you want to know your major, have a foundation of schools to start your research on, learn about the location, discover the extracurricular activities, and to know that tuition shouldn’t be the number one factor!