You already know that choosing a college is a major step in achieving your dreams. It can also create stress and anxiety because college planning plays such a big part in your life.
When my son was considering colleges, he had three initial criteria: a good business program, a climate not as cold as Minnesota (where we were living-but he’d grown up in Florida) and a solid baseball program. After several visits with colleges where he’d potentially have the opportunity to play baseball, he decided that he didn’t like any of the schools enough to keep them on his list. So what did he do?
At the last minute, in April, he applied on a whim to the University of North Dakota–which only fit the original criteria of a good business school. He even convinced his best friend to apply and unenroll from the University of Nebraska so they could be roommates.
Despite being much colder than Minneapolis and giving up baseball, he ended up liking it. He’s graduating next semester, although he recently told us he wishes he’d gone to a community college for a year. That would have helped him focus more on what he was studying and why as opposed to focusing on the adjustment of being away from home. Incidentally, his best friend ended up transferring out of UND after the first year.
Here are five questions you need to answer, along with some thoughts about each, to help you make the right choice for you.
It’s important to write out your answers in a notebook, or start a college planning notebook with my free, downloadable worksheet. Referring back to your answers will help you throughout the college selection process.
1. Do you have a solid idea of what you want to do after college and if so, what is it?
Most kids are unsure what type of career they want to pursue. That’s completely normal. After all, there are so many options and as a teen you can’t possibly have had access to learn about most of them. In fact, most adults have only grazed the surface of life’s options! If you’re not sure how to approach figuring it out, you may want to read this. At any rate, college is a time consuming and costly process so if you really don’t know what you want to do in life or there is even a chance you may change your major, you’ll want to be at a school that has programs in all the areas you have interest. Or, a community college may be a good option. Either way, it’s important to be sure you’ll be able to move your credits around if needed.
2. What do you like and want to do outside of academics?
College is so much more than just studying. To reap the full benefits, you’ll want to participate in activities and experiences that help you become as well-rounded as possible. You’ll want to thoroughly understand the types of opportunities the colleges you are considering offer outside the classroom as well as what you’ll have access to off-campus. If you’re used to playing intramural soccer as a way to de-stress and keep in shape but the college you like doesn’t offer that and there are no off-campus soccer clubs, when you get to campus you’ll have another hole to fill at a time when so many things are already different in your life. It’s important to consider how this will feel.
3. What is your learning style?
If you learn best with a lot of personal interaction, a large university that conducts most of it’s classes lecture style may not be a good fit. However, if this is the case and you really want the experience of a large school, you’ll want to investigate what is offered to help off-set the impersonal nature of those large lectures. Are small study groups the norm or will you have to lead the way to create those opportunities? Will you want to?
4. What type of community feels good to you?
That is, if you come from an urban environment, will you be comfortable at a rural school where your entire life is on campus? And, oppositely, if you come from a rural area, will you be comfortable at a school in a large city? You may not be sure, so consider doing more than just a day visit so that you can test-drive the area in which you’ll be living.
5. How far away from home will you really be comfortable living?
Of course, the idea of being on your own and away from your parents’ rules is exciting. And while you may not believe that you’ll get homesick, there’s a good chance you will, at least for your first semester. It’s natural to underestimate your connections to home. My daughter was and is incredibly independent. But her first semester away, she called home almost daily. If you are six or more hours away, it will be harder to pop home for a weekend to do laundry and enjoy Mom’s cooking. And it will be just as hard for your parents to drop in for a visit to you.
Of course there are many more considerations in choosing the right college, but once you have the answer to these, you’ll be on the right track.
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About the Author: Karin ULIK, Monthly Mentor and life coach, helps teens define who they are, what they want and take action to live the lives they truly want to live. As a sought-after keynote speaker, workshop leader and coach, Karin is dedicated to helping busy families avoid the trial-and-error she experienced in her own life. Her programs teach and inspire busy families to realize their potential and transform their lives. Read More…