I have been asked on multiple occasions what other colleges I looked at. As a college tour guide, I have found a great way to talk about how I chose a school.
Narrow it down by Location
Do you want to be close to home? Do you want to be far away from home? Do you want your family to be able to visit you easily or vice versa? Do you want it to be warm all the time or do you want 4 seasons? Do you want to be near a city? If so, which one? These are all things to consider when choosing a general location, state, or even country to go to college in.
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Rural, suburban, or urban?
Once you decide on a general area you would like to be in you should consider the type of location you would like the school in. If you want to be in a city, you want an urban location. If you want to be in a residential area or an area with a nearby town, you want a suburban school. If you want to be more isolated, you want a rural school.
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Once you have a location or type of location you would like, it is important to decide what size school you want in terms of number of students. The size of the school has an impact on the culture and feel of the school. When it comes to size, you only really need to see one of each to know how you feel about them. In small schools people tend to know almost everyone. If you like that small sense of community, this could be the right fit for you. When it comes to large schools, it is easy to pave your own way and find tons of people doing tons of different things. However this can be overwhelming. Medium schools have a mix of both. You can walk down a path and see a ton of people you know and a ton of people you don't know.
You also need to consider the actual size of the campus (or lack of). Do you want to be in close walking distance of everything? Or do you want to have one class in one part of a city and another on the other side of town?
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Private? Public? Religious? Greek Life?
When it comes to this, look at whether or not you want a public college or a private college and talk to your support system about this. Private colleges tend to be more expensive.
Deciding the type of school has a huge impact. There are religious schools such as the 28 Jesuit colleges or the numerous Catholic colleges. Jesuit schools tend to not have Greek life and have deep senses of community. Greek life has a huge impact on the culture of the university. When visiting or researching a school, find out what the presence of Greek life is on campus and decide whether or not that's something you're interested in. Keep in mind your views on this may change as you change throughout college.
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Obviously you are going to college to further your education. Once you have decided the type of school you want to go to and where, look specifically at their programs. If you want to be a nurse and the school you're looking at doesn't have a nursing program, it may not be the school for you.
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Think about the things you like to do in your spare time and look at the clubs a school has to offer. While you can start new clubs at just about any school, sometimes it is nice to join something that is already established. See what is offered at the schools you are looking at.
Do some research into the party life at that school. Is partying something you like to do? Does the school host activities on weekends that don't involve partying?
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The ultimate goal after college is usually to get a job. Look at the school's career center. Do they have a good alumni network? Are they helpful in vocational development?
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You need to decide if diversity of a school is important to you. Do you want to be surrounded by people that are different from you or similar to you? College is a time to grow as a person and it's a great time to be surrounded by people that are different from you.
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Every time you visit or research a school, take notes on it in a little notebook. Write down things like size, Greek life, and housing information.