If you’re in high school and you’re thinking about going to college, now is a good time to create a list of the schools you might be interested in. After all, there’s a chance you won’t get into all of the colleges you apply to—especially if you’re looking at competitive schools—so it’s a good idea to apply to at least a few. But how can you narrow down the thousands of choices you have? The following tips should help you create a short list of colleges that should be a great fit for you.
This is a good time to answer the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Even if you don’t have it completely figured out, you probably have some idea of the type of career you want after college. In fact, you should know why you want to go to college before you even apply, since some careers are a better fit for a trade school certificate than a BA.
So make a list of the top careers you might want to go into, and then look up the educational requirements for them. If most of them require a four-year degree, then college is a wise idea. Just make sure the schools you’re interested in have the programs you will need for your top careers. For example, if you want to own your own business, pick a school with a great business program. And if you want to be a nurse, make sure the colleges on your list all have good nursing programs.
Now that you know which schools have the majors you’re interested in, it’s time to consider the acceptance rate, as well as the average GPA and SAT/ACT scores of accepted students. This can give you an idea of how likely you are to get in. While you can typically apply to any colleges you want to, the application process can be time consuming and costly if you don’t narrow down your focus—preferably to schools that are a good fit academically where your test scores and grades are at least in the average range.
For instance, top schools—such as those in the Ivy League—often have acceptance rates as low as 5%. So unless your GPA, test scores, and letters of recommendation are nearly perfect, you have a low chance of being accepted. If you still want to try applying to top schools, you can, but just make sure you also apply to a few colleges with higher acceptance rates—such as 80% or higher—to ensure you get accepted somewhere.
Another detail to look at is where you want to go to school—meaning which city and state you want to live in for at least four years. First, think about how far you want to be from home. Are you hoping to go home every weekend, or do you want to be a plane ride away from your parents?
If it’s the latter and you plan to move to another state entirely, make sure you consider the weather first. If it’s quite different from what you’re used to, think about if you’re ready to handle that kind of change.
In addition, look into the school’s surroundings. Is it a big city or a rural area? Are there lots of stores, restaurants, museums, etc. to go to, or is it a quiet area where you can see all the stars in the sky at night? Either way, make sure it’s the sort of environment you’ll be glad to have around you for a few years as you work on your degree!
The cost of college is a big concern for most students. Make sure you attend a school you can afford. Sure, you might not have to worry much if your financial aid package is made up entirely of scholarships and grants, making tuition basically free for you. But most people have to take out student loans at some point, in which case choosing the most expensive school could be a problem.
You should also look at cost of living in the city your chosen college is in, as this will affect you even as a temporary resident. After all, you’ll have to pay rent at your apartment or house, as well as buy groceries, pay utilities, shop for clothes, etc. So try to find a school where the cost of living is about the same as where you live now so you don’t experience sticker shock once you arrive.
Finally, choose a college where you know you can have fun. You’re not going to be in class all day, which means you’ll have time to join some clubs, play a sport, or get a part-time job. So look into the extracurricular options you’ll have at your college.
You should also get a feel for the atmosphere there. Is it intense or strict, with students who are stressed and never have time to let loose? Or is it more relaxed, with lots of unique clubs and friendly students? You can find out the answer by reading reviews, talking to current students, and visiting campus when you get a chance.
These tips should help guide you as you make a list of the colleges you want to attend. But before you can go off to college, you need a high school diploma. If you’re having trouble earning that, come to City View High School. We offer small class sizes, flexible schedules, and supportive teachers who can help you on your journey to graduating from high school and applying to college!