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As your senior year starts coming to an end and graduation is not too far in the distance, you’re probably reflecting on your four years in high school and the different memories you’ve created. From the start of your freshman year being nervous about who you will sit next to at lunch to prepping for AP tests and end-of-course exams to getting ready for prom with a group of friends, you might secretly wish for your senior year to never end!
However, you’re about to start your college journey and it will undoubtedly be an unforgettable time filled with new people, interests, and experiences! College is an opportunity for you to explore new areas of study and pursue interests that could become passions. It’s a place where you can be uniquely you! Choosing the right college can be a bit overwhelming, so below are five big-picture questions to ask yourself when making the big decision.
How far away from home do you want to be?
Being away from home for the first time can be hard, and that’s okay! Knowing that you will be on your own for the first time can be an exciting time. Especially since you are in control of your own schedule! Do you want to take a spontaneous road trip home on the weekends, or are you okay planning out your visits in advance and coordinating your flight back home? Are there any family traditions or customs that you want to continue being a part of while in college? Being close to home has its benefits (homecooked food is definitely one of them!), but so does living independently and discovering a new city and all that it has to offer!
As you start to think about where you will attend school next fall, I recommend searching for what the average flight home costs or how many miles, and how much fuel, it would take to drive home. With this information, you can budget appropriately no matter how far (or close) you are from home.
What kind of academic and social environments do you want?
Do you want to attend a school where you can walk five minutes to any building, or do you want to explore a bigger, more widespread campus? Do you want a small faculty-to-student ratio that will allow you to form close relationships with your faculty members? Do you want to have opportunities to conduct research with faculty earlier in your college career? Do you want to live in a rural, suburban, or urban setting?
School location and the availability of resources within the school will impact all four years of your college experience. Think about the type of experience you want to have in the classroom with your professors and classmates, student clubs and organizations you want to participate in, and what will help round out your college experience in between class, studying, and extracurriculars.
What are your must-haves when it comes to opportunities?
Colleges will typically offer students some of the same opportunities. However, the extent of each resource may vary by school. For example, colleges will typically have some sort of academic mentoring available to students. However, you might want to ask whether students are paired with faculty, staff, or graduate/professional students. You might also want to ask if you are paired through a formal process or if you are randomly assigned. Lastly, getting paired with a mentor that has ten students each semester versus two each semester will make a big impact on the availability to meet and advise you.
Some opportunities you may want to consider inquiring about include:
- Studying abroad
- Conducting research or writing a thesis
- Engaging in cultural affinity groups or Greek life
- Playing intramural and club sports
- Receiving academic and peer mentoring
- Ability to take flexible electives
- Areas of study/double majoring
- Don’t settle! If there are resources you need, such as academic support, or opportunities you want to take advantage of, such as pursuing a double majoring, make sure you ask about it.
How important is school spirit to you?
Do you want your source of school spirit to come from athletic events or would you rather it come from community involvement and school pride? Do you want to go to a school that values competition or collaboration? Who do you want to surround yourself with? Do you want to go somewhere that encourages activism and debate? Look up school organizations and make sure the school offers the ones that align with your personal interests. If you have a true passion that you’d like to continue in college, see if there’s a way you can pursue it.
What is your goal post-graduation?
Do you want a full-time job immediately after graduating or are you looking to pursue higher education instead? Do you want a liberal arts education, versed in multiple disciplines or do you want to enter a pre-professional school and become an expert in your field? What are some of the majors that are getting attention at the school and how are they supported? How does the college or university prepare its students for their next steps in terms of advising? I’d recommend looking at what the top employers and graduate schools are at each school and making an informed decision that is best for you!
I know this is a lot of information, but these are good questions to start asking yourself as you think about what you want out of your next four years! Truthfully, there is no right or wrong choice because your college experience will be what you make of it. As you embark on this exciting time in your life, remember to continue learning, embrace new opportunities and experiences, and be authentically you!
Sending you all my best,
Assistant Dean of Admission