"Senior Spring," although considered the one time in your high school career wherein one does not have to worry about classes, grades or assignments, can be stressful in its own way. As college decisions start rolling in towards the end of January, applicants have some pretty important decisions to make. How can they choose the right school? This short guide to creating the perfect "pro and con" list for every school should help!
1. Consider Location!
Location is a factor that a lot of students turn a blind eye to when submitting applications. However, once decisions come, and you find out you have been accepted, it might quickly become a crucial factor when it comes to making the best decision for you. Consider:
- What kind of environment you are looking for, whether it be rural or urban?
- Whether the location is close (or far) enough from home.
- What traveling would look like to and from the location.
- How accommodating the school is with transportation.
If you are a nature enthusiast, you may want to choose a school located in a greener area, or one located next to prime hiking and skiing spots. If you thrive in a fast-paced environment, enjoy the city lifestyle, and work best when surrounded by people and cute coffee spots, you may want to look into schools located next to large cities or cute college towns.
2. Ask Yourself: What Kind of College Experience Do I Want to Have?
As someone who seeks a more "traditional American college experience," you might want to do a deeper dive into whether your schools have Greek life, student life centered around the campus, traditions, and more. You may want to experience joining a sorority/fraternity, or take advantage of the other perks a close-knit campus community can offer. A student athlete might want to look into a school's spirit and how involved their community is in athletics. An artist, on the other hand, can check whether a school has a supportive art community, opportunities for exhibitions, and guest artists who come to campus, among other artistic opportunities.
If you prefer a more individualistic approach to education, you might want to look into more "hands-off" schools— schools that give you more freedom to do whatever you want to do, don't require extensive participation in school events without making students feel excluded, and create various opportunities for students to get involved without making it feel suffocating. If you prefer not to attend games or participate in traditions, you might want to steer clear of schools who center their community around it.
3. Look Into Size
Even though a college's size might not seem like a crucial factor, it can be really important and influence your experience in a myriad of ways. If you are looking for a close-knit community, the kind where you know pretty much every person in your class, you might want to look into some smaller colleges. These schools are usually very personalized and tailored to every student. The small size is a way of ensuring that you will get noticed, whether it's by your teachers or peers, and will have plenty of opportunities to create meaningful connections. They tend to have a "family" type of environment to them.
Larger colleges or universities tend to give you more personal space and independence. You will still have opportunities to form meaningful connections with both faculty and students, but in ways that are different from those of smaller schools. You will probably get to know people in close proximity, such as neighbors or other students in your dorm building. You can form connections through clubs, seminars, and smaller classes. These larger schools might offer more diversity, thus creating a different learning environment and pushing you out of your comfort zone. They might also create a space for you to truly focus on yourself and discover who you are in a safe and supportive environment.
4. Check Out the Curriculum
Even if you are a very tired senior who doesn't want to think about anything even remotely related to classes at the moment, you might want to take a quick look at the course offerings and policies.
Some schools have a core curriculum, while others provide students with more liberty to choose their own schedule with an open curriculum. A core curriculum or one that tailors your schedule to your major might be the right choice for you if you are fairly certain of what you want to do in the future, you have a passion or interest that you are sure you will stick to, and you're excited at the prospect of spending most of your time building a strong foundation in it as soon as your freshman year. The core curriculum ensures that you still receive a well-rounded education while being able to focus your energy and focus on where you want it to be.
An open curriculum might be beneficial if you are not sure what you want to pursue in the future, or simply want to have the opportunity to try and discover new ideas and subjects you haven't had the chance to explore just yet. It is an opportunity for you to truly tailor your schedule to your needs and interests. While still having major requirements, these schools usually offer more opportunities for self-discovery and for pursuing topics not necessarily related to your primary field of study.
At the end of the day, choose the school that fits with what you want to get out of your college experience. Doing so may be daunting, but trust your judgement! You will end up where you are meant to be in the end.