Beginning Your College Search: What To Look For During The Summer
For rising seniors (and all other students for that matter), summer is a great time to do some research into potential universities and colleges you may want to apply to.
First things first, if you have never visited a university campus, the summer is a great time to do so. Find a university near you and call the admissions office to find out when they are offering tours for prospective students. Even if you’re not interested in attending this particular school, getting on their campus will give you something to compare other schools too. Check out the facilities: dining hall, dormitories, and athletic facilities.
If summer classes are going on, ask if you can sit in on a class or lecture to get a real sense of what a college education is like. Also, talk to people! Most guided tours are led by current students who can give you first hand knowledge of campus life. Grab a copy of the student newspaper and check out the bulletin boards in the student center and library to learn more about campus life. Gather as much information about this particular school and start a file; this is your baseline school, and the beginning of your search for the perfect match for post high school education.
After you visit a college campus, it’s now time to determine the factors which are important to you. As my fellow blogger Lindsay Smith wrote recently, there are many things to consider when selecting a school.
Think about the geographic location: proximity to home, weather and lifestyle. Are you someone who is comfortable in a big city, or do you prefer a more rural setting? The size of the school is often a factor many students consider: some university enrollments are upward of 30,000 students, others as small as 1,000. Would you be happy in a freshman Psychology class of 500 students, or do you need a more intimate environment where the professor knows your name?
Explore research opportunities, extra curricular activities, jobs and internships. If fraternities and sororities are something that is important to you, does the school have an active Greek life?
Do a thorough self-assessment of who you are and what is important. How hard have you worked in high school and do you have what it takes to be admitted to a particular school, do your GPA and standardized test scores match up with students admitted in the past? Be realistic! Remember, it’s not about finding the best college; it’s about finding the right college. Keep your options open, there are excellent colleges everywhere; do not get stuck on one name brand; the right college is where you can be happy and successful.
There are many resources out there to assist you with your college search. Start with a particular schools website; many schools publish statistics about the type of students they admit and information about their programs. College Board has an excellent college search engine where you can set parameters for what you’re looking for and get list of potential school based on your criteria. One of my favorites is Colleges That Change Lives found at www.ctcl.org, or you can experience a virtual campus tour by visiting http://www.collegeweeklive.com.
Seniors, you should have a list of 8-10 schools by the middle of September which you know you want to apply to. Good luck on your search and take the time to talk to your family and friends about their university experience, sometimes the people closest to you are your best resource.