College is a huge change. That is absolutely no secret. You have to pack up everything you own and move to this scary and new place where you probably know absolutely no one. In college, you can't really call your parents to make you dinner or help you with your laundry and you can't text your best friend to ask her to hang out when you have nothing else to do. Everything is new and everything is really really scary.
That's why choosing a college can be so difficult, because everyone wants to choose a college that they would feel comfortable and happy making their second home. When I was choosing a college, I ended up waiting until three days before the deadline to make my final decision because I was so confused and indecisive. Assuming you've read this far, you're in the same boat. So, here are some tips that I think I should have considered when choosing my home for the next four years.
1. How many majors do you like?
If you are not sure what you want to major in, choosing a school that has a lot of different majors you are interested in is a great idea. If you limit yourself to a school that only has one or two majors you may like, you might end up boxing yourself into a major that you don't really love or enjoy learning about. By choosing a school with a bunch of different majors that you are intrigued by, you open yourself to explore an array of interests and subjects.
2. Does it align with your values?
This is an aspect of campus that I never really considered in my decision. Each campus has a pretty distinct culture. Some are "party schools," many are rigorous and focus heavily on academics, some have intense school spirit, and others are in the center of a bustling city. Each of these campuses has its own distinct values that come along with them. Try to choose a school that you think best aligns with your own interests and values. If you don't see yourself fitting in with party culture, then maybe stray away from a school that has a reputation for that. Although this shouldn't be the only factor in your decision, it is something to consider. You should go to a school that will help provide the experience of college that you've dreamed of.
3. What is the campus size?
Deciding what kind of campus you see yourself in is an important step in narrowing down options. Going to a smaller school will mean that you'll be in a similar situation as high school. You'll know a lot of the people you interact with on a daily basis and you'll build a small and tight-knit community. Going to a larger school means that you'll meet new and friendly faces every single day. You'll certainly have to search for your circle of friends for a little while, but when you do find them, navigating the landscape of your big college will be so much more fun.
4. How far from "home" are you?
This question first depends on what you define as home. For some people, home is their cousins or friends who live in the state. For others, home is quite literally the house they've slept in as a child. Thinking about what you consider home will help you reason how far away your college campus is from home. In my own case, I'm about four hours from my home. To me, this is a good distance because I could go home for the weekend if I really wanted to, but I'm also forced to assert my own independence. For others though, being close to home or close to people they can call home is important because it is nice to have that sense of support nearby. Think about how far you'll be from home, how you'll get home, the transportation costs, etc. All that will help you determine what the best campus is for you.
5. Go with your gut
When I was deciding what college to go to, my friends and I played the "hesitation game." It was a silly game, of course, but it helped me realize what my heart really wanted. The game went like this: I wrote down my options for college on separate sheets of scratch paper. Then, we crumpled each of the scrap pieces of paper up and put them in a hat. My friend picked one of the pieces of paper out of the hat, and then read aloud what college she had chosen. If I hesitated for even one moment when she read the name of the college out loud, we decided that it wasn't the college I really wanted to go to. Although this game probably shouldn't be the basis for your final decision, it really helped me figure out what I truly wanted.
Choosing a college can be really difficult. There are so many people who give their unwarranted opinion on your decision and who think they know what is best for you. At the end of the day though, YOU will be the one attending the college, and YOU will be the one making the most of your next four years there. Consider your options, but consider what you want first. After all, it is your name that will be on that wonderful sheet of paper when you finish your degree.