Top 12 Tips to Master the College Search

Searching for college can be a daunting task. It can be scary to think about where you are going to spend the next 2 to 4 years of your life! Take a look at these top 12 tips for choosing a college to help ease your worries and narrow down your search:

1)     Identify the degrees offered & type of school: are you looking into a four year or two year school? Or what about a trade school? Would you prefer a public or private school? Would you feel more comfortable at a Historically Black College or University?  Would a two year school be a good option to save money and then transfer to a 4 year school?

2)     Look at the admission policy & academic standards: this will help to make sure you are on track and qualified to apply: IS your GPA and SAT scores in the range that they accept?  If you really want this school., do you need to retake the SAT’s. Its never too early to look at these scores. You can work hard in school to get your grades up!

3)     Determine a good location and size: do you want a big school? A small one? Urban? Rural? Suburbs?  Do you want to travel away from home or be nearby? Do you want a big city with a small college or do you want a big college with the football team and all the Division 1 sports to attend?

4)     Understand how diverse a school is: are other students diverse in race, background, gender, major, etc.? What areas of diversity are most important to you? Will you feel out of a place in a university that is not very diverse?

5)     Research cost & financial aid: first determine how expensive the school is, including tuition, fees, room and board, books, etc. Then investigate financial aid options offered by the school as well as outside sources. How likely will you be to get a scholarship or additional AID based on your parent’s income?  Student loans are not uncommon so be open to taking them out to achieve your dream.

6)     If necessary, look into affiliations & accreditations: for certain fields or activities, such as teaching/education majors or medical fields, it may be necessary to ensure that the school is affiliated with a certain governing body or accredited so that you are able to find a job.

7)     Think about your major or area of interests: do the schools you are looking into have the major(s) you want? What about the specialization such as pre-med or pre-law? Many students start in one major and then switch while at school. Its hard to know exactly what you want to do right out of school.  Look for colleges that may have a few majors you are interested in in case you want to switch. That way you don’t also have to switch schools.

8)     Explore campus activities: identify if the college has activities, clubs, sports, etc. that you are interested in or that you might want to get involved with.  If you want to continue dancing, does the school have a dance team or a competitive dance club. Many club sports teams travel and compete with other schools too so you don’t need to just join the Divisions 1,2 or 3 team at your school to still keep up with your sport.

9)     Ask about support services: does the school have counseling services? Academic advising? Career services that can help you find a job or internship? Do they have a writing center to help you edit your papers?  Is there tutoring available? What subjects?

10)   Research the curriculum: you can ask to sit in on a class, see a mock study plan, or look at class syllabi to determine if the class material is suited to what you are looking for.

11)   Find out about professors: determine what kind of professors teach at the school. Are they people you are excited to be learning from? Do professors/faculty teach most of the classes or is it primarily teaching assistants (TAs)? Do the professors offer research opportunities for undergraduate students?

12)   Reach out if you feel lost: finding the perfect fit can seem like an impossible task! Don’t forget to reach out to a teacher, BridgeUP Fellow, or another trusted adult who has potentially gone through the process of applying to schools!

BONUS TIP: Check out this list of colleges that offer special programs to visit the college for free – transportation included!

Watch this short clip to get ideas about even more things to consider when choosing a college.