College is a thrilling chance to rediscover your identity and connect with many new people, but there’s a ridiculous amount of pressure to go to a “good school.” That factor can hinder your ability to see which school the right school. Here are a few ways to know when a school is right for you.
Figure Out Brand
Think of it this way if your school was a person, would you become besties? Identifying the brand of the school is a helpful tool in discovering how you would fit in. Brands are everywhere, even grocery stores. For example, do you go to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or Smart and Final? Each store has a very different feeling even when you walk in and where your shop says a lot about you too. Walking into Costco for groceries when you feel more comfortable at a small Trader Joe’s can be overwhelming. You want to avoid this. If you are at a large high school and hate it because you don’t do well in crowds you may want to stick to private colleges. That’s not to say you shouldn’t branch out if you need to. Think about what you want your experience to be like, is a party school important to you? Do you do well under academic pressure? As impressive as it may sound to go to a prestigious school, it will be far more demanding (and more expensive) than a mediocre college. Is it known for being progressive or conservative? Do people ride skateboards or hoverboards? Would you get along with the hoverboarders or the skateboarders? Defining the school’s brand will help reveal the best school for your personality.
Everyone knows that finding the right school should require that it has a good program for your major. What people fail to realize is that college students change their major at least three times, and that’s okay. Asking a highschooler to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives is not very reasonable. So when you consider the quality of the programs for your major pick two other majors, you’re interested in just in case you decide to change your mind along the line. Make sure those programs are up to par as well, so there’s room for you to change your major. Are there any other classes related or not related to your major choice that would encourage you to learn. Judging a school’s character has a lot to do with how it can appeal to the whole point of you being there: to get an education. If most of the classes sound like a bore, then maybe this isn’t the place for you. If you do find a quality class, another thing to look at is how often is offered; sometimes, it’s offered only during fall semesters or quarters. Maybe it’s only offered once every four years. Classes and majors are a major part of deciphering the right school for you.
Beyond majors, extracurricular activities are a vital part of college life. Do you want to rush? Do you want to write for the newspaper and put it on your resume? Is there a club sport you may want to play just for fun? The goal here is to as many connections as you possibly can; there are so many statistics that prove the better social life you have at a university can influence your academics as well. Joining clubs that are meaningful to you will allow you to create a support system. Most people’s support systems reside in their family; if not, it can be close-knit friends too. Packing up and leaving home is not as easy as it sounds, especially if you’re moving out of state. The more true connections you make from the get-go, the more people you can rely on when things get tough. If you’re planning to live off-campus as a commuter, it might be easy for you to go about your business and forget campus life, but this is a mistake too. If you go in with that mindset, your grades will likely suffer, and you can rob yourself of a life-changing experience. It’s crucial that the school you’re looking at carries clubs and extracurricular activities that you enjoy. You want to meet as many people as possible because the friends you make can make or break your college experience.
Talk to Alumni’s
No one would up and buy a car without consulting some sort of review system to see how the vehicle performs according to other consumers. Even shopping for a razor on amazon is made more accessible by ratings and reviews. The biggest mistake you can make is creating financial or personal commitments without consulting others who have been in the same position. Why should college shopping be any different? Unfortunately, there’s not a yelp for college, though that would be pretty sweet, so you have to do it old school. Talk to real people and find out what their experiences were. Likes and dislikes? Did they study something about your major? How was the social life on campus? How was their dorm and roommate experience? Why did they choose this school? Did they transfer? I know so many people who picked a school for the wrong reasons and ended up transferring or dropping out within the first year, and you may find that story from some alumni of specific schools. Usually, they only based it off the prestige of the university; this can only hinder your college experience. No one wants that, so try to get a broad consensus of what the majority passing rate is.
I grew up in a small beach town and thought I would fit in at a big city school. The school was great, but the surrounding city made me want to drive to my hometown every weekend. It turns out I need nature or some sort of body of water nearby, or I get a little stir crazy. That ended up okay for me since my hometown was just an hour away, but that’s not the case for everyone. College is all about realizing things that you can and can’t live without, but if you can do some soul searching before you pack up and move out, that might help you in the long run. Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself: where is the nearest city or student hub that people tend to hang out? Do you like the restaurants there? How is the nightlife? Is it quiet? Or is it loud and crazy? Could you see yourself hanging out with future schoolmates here? Is there a lot of things to do in this area or will I get bored? Is there nature around? Asking yourself these questions will bring clarity surrounding what your ideal college town will look like and narrow down your choices.
The location also can be super beneficial when building connections and focusing on your future. Where you go to school may pave the way for where you get your first job in the real world. That said, you want to make sure that what you are studying can easily connect to the location surrounding your school. For instance, if your studying entertainment and tourism, ideally, you want your school to be in a place where you can thrive in that industry. So picking somewhere that has amusement parks nearby or is rich in history would be a great bet. Maybe don’t pick a place in barren land that has a population of 10. Usually, schools require every student to do an internship as a graduation requirement. They make deals with surrounding businesses to make it easy for students to access internships. Maybe graduation won’t be in the front of your mind, but it’s the goal, and putting yourself in the center of opportunities make your life a lot easier career-wise.
Visit The Campus
I know not everyone has this luxury, which is why I included it last, but if you get the chance to, you must visit your school campus. Just being on campus and getting to know the area and talking to people who go there are things that will make a world of difference when finding out what school fits your needs. If you are so lucky to travel to your candidate school, make sure you take advantage. You could stop to talk to people; college students are very friendly and will be happy to give you a review of their experience if you ask. You could speak to the Resident Advisors or tour guides, but they’re trying to sell the school to you. Try to connect with real students going about their day and see what they think too. People will appreciate you looking to them for advice and will want to shed their wisdom. Visit the library; the library should be in good shape because they are selling knowledge. Check out the student gym; they’re usually massive; I never got used to a normal-sized gym after going to my schools. Scope out the football field and catch a game if you can too. The student union is something you don’t want to miss out on either; it has on-campus food courts and all the furniture you can imagine for lounging and studying. Visit the college town nearby to see if you like the hang out spots. During this experience, you should try to find a quiet space to listen to what your body is telling you. There’s nothing like sitting on campus and feeling a strong “yes, I can see myself here” or “no way.” Even if it’s a no, that will still narrow down your choices. Whatever place you choose, it will be the right one; every school has accepted you because they want to unleash your potential. The best college experience is waiting to be created by you.