Three Ways to Choose the Best Fit College For You


Choosing a college is tough stuff. Whether you’re a high schooler, or an undergrad looking out the far, foggy horizon of grad school., choosing a college that’s right for you is tough stuff. But, thankfully, not impossible.

And even more thankfully, if you’re a high schooler, it’s easier than you might think.

Here is where I’ll give you a four step formula to choosing the right college for you that’ll ensure a low-anxiety admissions process: examining your skill set, research, deciding on deal breakers, and making your final decision. As a teenager, it may already seem difficult to navigate just exactly what you want to be doing for the next couple of decades – a valid claim. But thankfully, self-analyzation comes first.


This is the part where you take a step back and evaluate yourself. If you grew up with your parents telling you that you were the best at everything, then quite frankly, you’re already behind.

It’s easy to catch up, though. (First thing's first is to leave any and all ego at the door.) 

Heading straight away into college with a major isn’t a necessity; you’ll be stuck taking all your general requirements freshman year. After that, you’ll sort of need to have one. 

On one hand, figuring out what you really want to do in your first year seems like the most fool proof plan: classes in college tend to be more engaging and reminiscent of the real life situations of the particular field than anything you could find in a high school. Take a philosophy class, or a biblical studies class, or a class on old world piracy. 

On the other hand, letting yourself wander around aimlessly without a goal in mind, if not a major, isn't the best idea. Certain majors and programs have you working on specific requirements in your freshman year, which would set you behind in terms of credits. You'd be forcing yourself to work harder in the long run. And the key to college is working smart, not hard (don’t tell your parents that though).

So self-evaluate. What are you good at? What are you favorite subjects at school? What do your personal skills, however minuscule they might seem, and your interests within the realm of academia have in common? Are you more critical, or more creative? Can you speak well, or explain things well? Would you rather write a book or read it? Does math make your head hurt? Does reading Shakespearian literature? What are the coolest careers to you? What topics have you researched and uncomfortable amount about?

And while you’re at it, be as brutally honest as possible without beating yourself up. You may have a thousand weaknesses, but a single strength could take you places you could never imagine.



Thinking back to my own personal college decision process, this was probably the hardest part because I did it after I researched and fell in love a few schools already. Deal breakers should be hashed out beforehand and be kept in the back of your head (or on paper) as a reference point while you research.

I don’t think this is a question we ask ourselves enough during the college process: when it comes to your education, what are you not willing to sacrifice?

Whether it’s communal bathrooms in the dorms, or a lack of sports enthusiasm, or the school being too far away from home, or the school having very little people of color – there’s probably at least two things about each of the schools you’re considering that you won’t be happy with. Make a little list for yourself. You just went through all that painful self-analyzation, right? What are your needs a student?

Mind you, the list shouldn’t have longer than five deal breakers. A perfect school isn’t a real thing for most people – and that’s perfectly okay. It's also perfectly okay to end up compromising on them.

You need to make a list, and a small list, of your absolute necessities in a school, and stick with it. It’ll be helpful when you’ve done all your research and start picking off potential places to learn.

For me, my absolute necessity was diversity. I grew up the only Somali and Muslim in my whole school, and I graduated that way. It was too emotionally and mentally tiring to not have people like me around, and the only way I was active in my local community was through school, so I wouldn't be making many friends outside of school. I turned down an acceptance second best university in my state for being a PWI (predominantly white institution) and I haven’t looked back.

So when you make those deal breakers, make sure you keep your specific realities in mind. Your background, your parents financial state, your personal shortcomings, and your personal needs. It matters because your experience with education matters.


Alright, time to get online. And not on social media.

I’m watching you, punk.

Get to research. You can’t handle any situation without accurate information. This step has a few parts in itself, so I apologize for cheating (admittedly, it’s also the least straight forward). It’s important to research the schools you’re considering, the degrees you’re considering, and the careers you’re considering.

It doesn’t have to be a very structured research center either -  just grab a bowl of ice cream and start Googling stuff. Or, if you’re that painfully organized, grab the bowl of ice cream, a pen, and take some notes.

It’s important to do as much research as possible in whatever amount of time afforded to you when it comes to choosing a school. Some great questions to investigate online would be whether the institution makes changing majors (or double majoring) easy, what their retention rate is, how their graduates do in the job market after graduation, as well as it’s core strengths. There isn’t a single school that does everything at a hundred percent. It’s why there are dozen different Ivy League schools.

You wouldn’t pass over Columbia for Princeton when you’re going to be doing Religious Studies just because it’s Princeton

It’s important to match the right school to the right degree or program as well. This is especially important if you’re going to be going into any science or math field. For instance: if you’d like to be an engineer, what type of engineer would you like to be? Engineering has different degree programs that equip you with different skill sets. Would you like to work in a specific field? Do you want flexibility with your future career? What sorts of problems will you be able to solve by the time you leave school? It’s important to know just what exactly what you can do and which road you’ll go on with the piece of paper they’ll be handing you at the end of those four or five years.

It’s arguably the most important to match the right degree to the right school. You may not be exactly where you think you’ll be a decade from now, but you’re probably going to be somewhere near it. Even careers have pros and cons, and money can definitely be one of them for people who’ll have certain financial obligations in the future. I do urge you to not weigh money over passion, though.

How much will you possibly make?  Is the job pool saturated? Will there be a decline in positions over the next ten years? Could you go overseas with this degree? Could you switch fields with relative ease?

Also, for the record, research by word of mouth is important too. Talk to you high school teachers, family, friends, and even people within fields that interest you. You might get completely new perspectives than you thought you ever would.



Well, finally. After months, or weeks, or days, or even several hours tapping the heck out of your keyboard, you’re equipped to make a decision. You’re well informed about who you are, what you can do, where you want to go, and what you’ll need wading through those post-secondary education waters. You may even have a couple of admissions papers laying around somewhere as you read this.

You’re ready to make an awesome decision.

So…pick one.

That’s about it at this point, honestly.

Now this is where the understandable amount of doubt kicks in. What if you really aren’t ready to make a decision about where you’re going? What if your second best option was really the best and you passed it up over something arguably nonsensical? What if you hate your major? Your school? What if you’re making all the wrong moves?

That’s the great thing about life: you very nearly always have options, especially when it comes to higher education. If you’ve got to switch majors, or even transfer, it’s possible. Taking the time to choosing wisely doesn’t mean that you’ll be stuck with that particular choice forever.


No one said this was an easy process. And if they did, they’re either a pretentious liar or their life hasn’t gotten complicated enough yet. Complexity is necessary to existence (although you should save all that existential stuff for your inevitable foray into a Philosophy class).

This is tough stuff. Luckily, if you read all of this, you’re tough stuff too.

So get out there and get to work! You’ll be thanking your high school self in a few years on the line.


The best website for dissecting careers and degrees:

Engineering Q&A from the Engineering Barbie herself:

About Student Loans:



Tips for Picking High School Electives


It's that time of year again. Just as high school students have become completely settled into the new school year, the time comes to choose their electives for the next school year. While picking electives in itself isn't exactly the hardest thing in the world, it's picking the right ones that requires a bit of forethought. Here are some tips to help you make these choices.

Know Your Requirements

Before you decide on any electives, make sure you have all your required classes accounted for. If you failed a course in the past, plan to graduate early, or just live in a school district that requires a semester of art you have yet to take, brushing up on your school's requirements could save you from some serious stress senior year. Whether you want to turn up the heat a little or just relax for your last year of high school, it's better not to have an unfulfilled requirement hanging over your head before you head off to college. In addition, think about what classes you may want to take in the future as well; if your school offers an interesting class that you have to be a junior or senior to take, check if you need to take a prerequisite course first.

Identify Your Likes...and Dislikes

If you already know what school you want to go to and what you want to study there that's great; you can pick electives related to that field. If you're like me, however, and are a bit more indecisive, it might help to simply know what you like--and what you don't. It's often easier to identify ourselves by what we like than what we are, and knowing what you dislike is just as important as what you like. Your school may have dozens of options for electives, but many can easily be weeded about by saying "I hate math" or "I really don't like history." Now, obviously you are not going to choose an elective in a subject you hate; if you are unsure of your feelings, however, selecting a certain elective can feel like a leap of faith, which is where an outside opinion can become essential.


Talk to Upperclassmen

High schoolers love to complain about school. You can deny it all you want, but there's always one class that gives too much homework or is taught by a teacher that could put coffee drinking six-year-olds to sleep, and for every one of those classes, there are a plethora of students willing and eager to talk about it. If you're on the fence about taking a class, ask around for kids who have taken it or have had another class with the teacher. At the least, you'll probably get an "I heard they give a lot of group projects," or "the tests are really easy," and if you're lucky, you may get a five minute rant with the input of three passing strangers (yes, I speak from experience).

Know Your Limits

If you're taking four AP classes, on the swim team, belong to the drama club, and have a part time job, taking a study hall might beneficial to your mental health. Before choosing any electives, consider the other courses you're taking and whether you'll be able to handle another class. Staying sharp in your classes is just as important as choosing them, and as invincible as you think you are at times, we all have limitations. I have friends taking the same classes as me but without a study hall they often stay up until 2am to finish all their homework because they also have jobs and extra-curricular activities until late at night. On the other hand, there are some people I know with even heavier class loads than I without a study hall that are doing just fine, it all depends on the person. Take some time to self reflect and figure out what's best for you.


Utilize Your Guidance Counselors

More often than not, the most helpful resource for choosing electives is the one your school provides you. Guidance counselors are your best friends when it comes to the subject; they already know what courses your school requires and often can give great advice about a plan not only for the next school year but for the rest of high school and beyond. While seeking out your counselor may seem annoying or intimidating at first, they're usually your best bet when it comes anything regarding you and high school; it's kind of their job.