College selection is confusing. There are thousands of options varying in location, price, reputation, and more. If that wasn’t confusing enough, we are bombarded daily with emails from college reps trying to recruit. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed; so, let’s simplify the search process.
Know Your Limits
Before beginning the search process, know your limitations. Talk to your parents about the yearly college budget. This should include tuition AND other expenses (room/board, extracurricular activities, etc). Don’t count out colleges that are slightly out of budget though; scholarships can help reduce costs.
Often times, students want to go to college across the country. However, many parents have different plans. Check with your parents on locations and factor travel costs into budget planning.
Get to Know the College
University websites are one of the best ways to get to know a college. These provide summaries of learning opportunities and statistics. For an unbiased view, look for college rankings on independent websites such as US News, which ranks colleges yearly.
Current students and alumni are other great resources. They aren’t paid to promote the college and have first-hand experience on college life. Many alumni are involved with social media alumni groups; look to these resources for casual information about campus life and the school environment.
College representatives are a great source of introductory information. These representatives are often available for discussion at your high school and at local college fairs. These college fairs are a convenient way to learn about numerous colleges in one setting. Don’t forget to make a good impression! These representatives can be a great help in the application process as well.
Tour the Campus
Touring is by far one of the most exciting aspects of the college selection process. University tours allow students to see the campus from the student perspective, view living accommodations, and feel out the campus vibes. If possible, schedule a tour with the college of your interest while the university is in session. While many colleges offer summer or winter break tours, tours during school sessions often offer a more realistic view of campus life.
Campus tours are a great way to get the feel for a university, but many families do not have the scheduling availability or financial resources to tour colleges that aren’t within driving driving. Touring local universities is a often convenient and cost effective method of determining your preferred campus style: big/small, city/college town, traditional/modern, and more. This will help eliminate colleges that don’t meet basic campus criteria. Many universities also offer immersive tours on their websites. These are great ways to visualize the campus without traveling the distance.