For many high school seniors, the anticipation of receiving college acceptance letters is such an invigorating time; however, for many it is a time of high anxiety. In a Perfect World, you get accepted to your dream school, without a second thought to opening those other letters. But for those living in the Real World, having a Plan B and Plan C, can be the answer to the anxiety and is also the smartest game plan.
The challege really becomes finding the right fit among your options. Like your favorite pair of jeans, that one perfect fit is never questioned, but we all know you have backups, and it’s the same when picking a college.
First, when considering a college to pave your way to a successful future, consider the class sizes and student/teacher ratios, and always check the reviews from Niche and Rate My Professor. If you think you might need some one-on-one time with your professors, just skip the large state universities; those probably are not for you. And please consider your potential major. If you’re planning to be an English major, a school whose focus is largely on the sciences probably won’t satisfy your cravings for challenging coursewor, especially as you move into the upper level coursework.
While it may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, housing and meals are vital to your college success. As it turns out, dorms and food are very big reasons stated for those wishing to transfer mid college career. As Freshman, it’s most likely that you will have no choice but to reside on campus. Residential Life is key to the success of most students, and many schools require living on campus for at least Freshman year, while many others require two or more years. Living on campus in residential housing almost always requires the students to particpate in the meal plan a/k/a dorm food. There are many positive reasons for these requirements, citing that typically students do better in their studies when living on campus and dining in the halls, too. They claim it boosts the students’ involvement on campus, and takes the pressure off the student from haiving to shop for food, prepare meals and clean up after themselves to allows for more study and social time during their Freshman and Sophmore years.
For all that good news, just take this advice and research the meal plan options by looking for student reviews about the food. College students are generally brutally honest when it comes to critiquing their school’s food, and you will definitely know if your prospective school’s meal plan includes mystery meat and pizza every day of the week with no other alternatives.
And now for the practical advice. Location is everything when it comes to picking the right college. Consider that this will be your “home” for the next four or more years of your life, so take careful consideration of the location and what is offered nearby. The campus may be amazing, but are you in the middle of nowhere if you venture off? Or worse yet, if you cross that border, are you walking into something uncomfortable? Will you feel as though you are stranded if you don’t have a car on campus? Keep in mind that Freshman are generally not allowed to have thieir own car on camput, because parking is always an issue. Most likely if you can have your car, it will come with added expenses, like parking passes, gas, parking tickets, and friends mooching off you for free rides. As bizarre as it sounds to be at school without your wheels, consider that student parking at most colleges and universities is minimal at best, and fills up quickly. So driving to class, may become a nightmare. You may end up circling the campus looking for a parking spot before class only to end up having to to go off campus to find a spot. So, if you have to have your wheels, budget for parking tickets, as it is rare that those fines are successfully disputed.
Most importantly, verify the quality of your school’s professors. Websites like Niche and Rate My Professor will give you insight into the professors from the student’s perspective. At a small college, it may be more difficult to be selective of a professor for a “required” course, where at large univerisities there may be 5 times the choices. Regardless, do your homework before signing up for class. For the most part, the ratings are not false news on the Internet. Remember, if the students are rating professors with high marks and commenting that the professors are accessible and interested in helping you succeed. then definitely consider the school. If you read otherwise, heed the warning. Comments like “professors do not put much effort into teaching their classes,” should tell you to strongly reconsider your choice for that school.
And the same goes for advising; you need to be able to access your advisor and have a relationship that will enable you to eb and flow as your learn your way through your college career. As a college student you will be relying upon the guideance of your advisor all four years, and you will want to create a bond that you can rely upon. Check out the school’s advising department, and definitely proceed with caution. The last thing you want to feel is abandonment when you reach the fork in the road, only to find there’s no one there looking out for your success.
The college selection process is a challenging and exciting time of year. There is more to picking a school than football and frats. With careful consideration, you will find the college of your dreams.