The College Process
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Student Life

The College Process

Some ideas on what to look for in a college.

The College Process
Arcadia University

I will be going into my senior year of high school this fall, and all anybody can talk about and ask me about is college -- where I'm planning to go, what I'm planning to study, and about a thousand other somewhat overwhelming questions. I have been visiting colleges left and right within the past three months, and have learned a lot about what I am looking for in where I will be spending my next four years of school. Watching my sister and a few of my friends go through this transition in life (and beginning the transition myself) has taught me a lot about the college search as a whole. For anyone in the midst of this wild process of choosing the right college and going through the whole application process, or for anyone who will at some point, here are some ways to find the perfect school for you:

1. Where do you see yourself in a year?

This question seems vague, but if you can apply it to college, it isn't at all. If you can see yourself going to school in a big city (New York, Philadelphia, Chicago), then start searching for schools around those areas. If you can't even stand the thought of a busy street, maybe look at colleges in more rural, suburban, or countryside areas. Can you see yourself miles and miles away from home? Search far and wide -- and if not, maybe only a stone's throw away.

2. What kind of college suits you?

This question entails many follow-up questions, including: Do you like giant state schools filled with over 10,000 students? Are you planning on staying in a dorm on campus, or will you be commuting? How big do you want your classes to be -- 30 kids or 300? Do you really want to get to know your professors and get a lot of one-on-one time? Or would you rather them not know who you are? Does the idea of getting lost on campus scare you? Keep track of your answers to these questions or those of the like -- and apply them to each school to which you intend to apply.

3. What extracurricular activities interest you?

If you play a sport, want to rush a sorority or fraternity, or are just very interested in a specific hobby/pastime, use it as a factor in the process of elimination. Make sure the school offers the sport, and maybe see if you can earn any scholarships for it. If you are a Greek legacy, try to search for schools with those social clubs. However, it is also important to remember that many colleges offer a variety of clubs that you can try for the first time, and creating new clubs are typically one of the easiest things to do on campus.

4. Which colleges are realistic for you?

This does not mean you can't be ambitious and aim big -- but if you are only applying to schools that are nearly impossible to get into, you may end up anywhere but your dream school. As you find colleges that spark your interest, check their academic requirements -- GPA, transcripts, standardized test scores, and extracurriculars. If you have a prospective major you are interested in, make sure the school offers it! From personal experience, finding out your absolute dream school doesn't offer your major is a big disappointment, but also eye-opening. Try not to fall head over heels for a school until you know more about it and get to know it a little better. Check out all the financial aid packages each school offers, and talk to your parents about student loans and scholarship opportunities.

5. Which college(s) did you enjoy most?

This question can only be answered if you visit the school -- so go out and do it! Sign up for different open houses, register for a personal campus tour, or simply take a trip to the campus. If you cannot arrange a visit of some sort due to a busy schedule or distance, take advantage of technology and take a virtual tour of the campus. Sometimes, you'll know right away if you love or hate the school. It's best to tour the school during the school year, just to see what some classes may look like, what a dorm looks like for freshman, and ask students questions.

All in all, making the right choice takes time, so the best bet is to get ahead of the game. Fill out your applications as soon as possible, and get working on those college essays! Have people review your essay, and start asking for college recommendation letters. Reach out to teachers, coaches, mentors, and advisors, and try to get at least two or three solid letters. I wish everyone luck as they approach and/or go through this process.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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