As the fall semester finally drifts its way to a close, our campus is swamped more and more frequently with tours of scared -- or confident -- high school students eager to find their home for the next four years. Each one seems at least moderately overwhelmed as I was, no matter how prepared they feel, when they see a student in an inflatable dinosaur costume sprinting around campus at top speed. And the search process is no cakewalk either. You have to narrow down by country, then state, then major and kind, and it all feels like a lot. I would much rather relive finals week forever than go through the stress of finding a college.
But fear not, young ones! I, through an incredible amount of trial and error, have discovered a couple ways to help relieve a significant amount of stress. Hopefully my mistakes(that, mind you, lead me to the perfect college) will assist you in finding the right college for you.
My very first recommendation is narrow your search. Start with location. How far away from home do you want to be? Do you want to be no more than an hour away, or are you willing to branch out a little farther? I know a friend who is currently studying in Rome -- talk about exotic local(replace “Rome” with Quebec if you happen to be from Italy). You should also look at the surrounding town. Both small towns and big cities have their advantages. Small towns have cutesy little shops, and you can usually walk just about anywhere. However, there’s not a lot places to go without driving. Large cities are always busy, so you're rarely lonely, and there's easy transportation, but they are also loud and can easily get expensive. Additionally, how large do you want the school? Do you want it to be large enough that you have lots of opportunities and can easily adapt, or small enough that you can easily stand out and every professor knows your name? Some people thrive around others, while other people need some isolation. I prefer knowing everyone I’m around -- it makes it easier to make connections -- but some of my friends enjoyed a big school because they could meet new people every day. It all depends on how you operate, so start analyzing that.
When you start your search, money will definitely be an issue. Tuition is the highest it’s been in a long time, and it’s near impossible to go to college without accumulating debt. However, if you play your cards right, and apply to as many scholarships as humanly possible, you might be able to lower the cost and still go to your dream school. To do this, you must go to college fairs. Talk to all of the admissions people you can. Go to every event anywhere. That’s how I ran into representatives from Hastings, where I now attend happily. Also, sign up for every email list you can. Most of the time, schools will offer free online applications that don’t require essays, so that can be a good safety net. They also offer up to full tuition through some of these applications. On that note, apply, apply, apply! Apply to as many colleges as you think you might be interested in, and a couple you’re not. It genuinely can do nothing but help.
After all of this research and studying and hard work, it’s time to visit. I understand not a lot of people can afford to visit all the colleges they apply to, but if you find a college that sounds like somewhere you might want to be, everyone’s recommendation is to tour. However, I’m going to modify that slightly; sandwich your dream school in between two others that you’re not entirely sure about, but are considering. It sounds corny, but when you step on the right campus, you just know, but you especially know if you immediately step on the wrong campus before and afterward. It’s such a weird feeling because it’s the feeling of being home, but most prospective college students have never felt anywhere that was home that wasn’t actually home.Hopefully, these quick couple of tips and thoughts will help you (and your overbearing parent or guardian that is currently freaking out) find your dream school. Of course, don’t set your expectations too high. Just find somewhere you can tolerate living at for 4 years. And most importantly, keep an open mind. If you go somewhere thinking you’re going to hate it,