Now that you have completed high school, you are at a critical juncture in your life to choose a college to attend. You will be spending the next three to four years in this institution. Therefore this is a significant decision. When considering these factors, it's common to feel overwhelmed and lack direction. Just the sheer amount of colleges (around 1400) is enough to want to make you stop! But, take a deep breath because we are here to help you with tips on how to choose a college.
Start with a blank slate
When picking a college, the first and foremost important aspect is that it has to be the right and best fit for you, not for anyone else. Not for your mom, dad, best friend, or girlfriend attending college. It has to be for you and yourself and nobody else. This is a decision that's not impacting anyone else but yourself. It's up to you because you will be putting in the work. No one else will be writing your assignments, and no one else will be studying for your tests. You'll have to do it all yourself, indeed people who will help you and coach you along the way, but no one should have the final say in what college you decide to attend because, in the end, it is going to be about you. You can take opinions from people around you. If you are debating between colleges, weigh the pros and cons with them, ask what they think, and help make the decision. As important as their advice and opinions are, it's up to you at the end of the day.
That being said, when looking for a college, going blindly can be exhausting, so have criteria in what you want your next four years to look like. Then, choose your subject and start looking for colleges that fit the requirements. People tend to get so caught up in the name brand or the national college rankings or the parties and the "freedom," and they forget to focus on the main idea that this is a stepping stone in your professional career. In 20 years, the things that will be the most impactful are the professors you worked with, the students you met, or the best friends you made throughout college. Those factors should take precedence over any other variables.
Research, Research, Research
Another thing is to utilize online free resources. Most colleges have websites. Find them, look through the program you are interested in, the other programs they offer, events, seminars, conferences, faculty, and anything you can get your hands on. Think about what matters to you and see if they have those resources. Slowly whittle down your list of potential colleges based on this.
Another great option is to watch YouTube videos. Some colleges have testimonials. Look at them to see if they are genuine, and you can also find vlogs from the students. When you see the "a day in the life" video, you get a feel for what a student like yourself could be. You want to imagine yourself in someone else's shoes for the next four years. It may be challenging because there aren't many college vloggers but take whatever you can get. This will give you a clearer idea of the colleges that better fit you. By this point, you will have a small list of colleges that you want to apply to.
Try to visit your top options
The only way you'll get the natural feel for what college will be the best fit for you is if you step foot on that campus. If you do a college tour, talk to the people, and visit the buildings, that will give you a clear opinion. It's hard to tell through the interweb, pictures, or even videos. When you are there, ask a lot of questions. Ask what's the one-to-one ratio with students to faculty, what facilities are offered for undergraduate students, what makes this school different from XYZ school, and the most difficulties you face as a student. Ask questions that will make people stop and think, and those will get you the best answers.
Talk to students and alumni
Another huge thing you can do is talk to the students on campus. That's going to be the best indicator of what student life is going to be like. Since they're the actual students who attend that school, those are the people who will be spending the most time there. If they're rude, not helpful, or unkind when you first interact with them, that might indicate that the school might not be the best fit for you. If you ask something and they're beneficial, they walk with you along the way, and then you can actively communicate your concerns. It also gives you a general idea of your student life.
You can also find alum networks of some colleges online to understand how the college can help you in your professional life and if the alum network is a valuable resource.
Also, look at the financial aid packages that you can be given. Weigh the pros and cons of a school that will provide you with some scholarships versus a school that may not offer you anything. Then, decide whether that money will significantly influence your decision because money is essential and college is expensive. If a college is willing to give you a generous financial aid package, definitely keep that in consideration.
Do not have any prejudices or stereotypes about what you've heard or seen about this school because that will limit how you can see yourself on that specific campus. Go in with an open mind because you could step onto the school's campus at the bottom of your list and have a completely different feel for it, and it could end up being your favorite top school at the end of the day.