A little over a year ago, I was making an extremely difficult decision. Picking the college I would spend the next four-plus years at was not easy. I was just a mere high school student who was unsure of what I wanted for my future. Now that I am almost finished with my first year of college, I will pass down this advice that I have come to find to all the high school seniors as they approach their time at college.
1. Visit campus
The biggest factor in choosing a college is feeling comfortable on campus. Don’t be shy; schedule a visit to colleges you are accepted to. It may be scary having to walk from building to building, but if you are able to navigate through a school easily while feeling at home, you know a certain school is right for you. Make sure you look into campus security, and options to get to classes. Would you rather ride a bus or walk to class? Ask yourself these questions to make sure you feel like a school is the right fit for you.
2. Explore other majors/ minors
Not everyone finishes school with a degree they planned on obtaining. You never know if you will change your major at some point in your college career. Explore different departments within schools. If a school has various options with high reputations, it is safe to choose this school.
3. Network with others
Do not be shy to show your face. Network with deans, professors, and students to get first-hand information about a school. Many colleges offer summer programs to familiarize prospective students with departments. You will never know all the information you ever wondered about a school until you immerse yourself with classes, or speaking to individuals. It also never hurts to make your connections with these individuals now, for you could be working with them one day.
4. Know your options for involvement
You should become familiar with the types of involvement offered at a school. Once you enter college, becoming involved is important for not only building a resume but connecting with peers and making friends. If there are lots of sports and clubs that interest you, it is important to keep that in mind. When you enter college in the fall, you will want to get involved in these countless opportunities around campus.
5. Distance from home
Everyone thinks traveling far away from home is a great idea at first; however, after a while, it may not be the greatest idea. Living away from home for four (plus) years can be difficult. Take it from a college student: homesickness is inevitable. Sometimes, you will want to be able to come home and sleep in your own bed and take a shower without being squished and having flip flops on your feet. If you are considering traveling far away from home, also keep in mind that flights home are expensive during the holidays. You may not always be able to go home to be with your family during important times.
You will want to be aware of how comfortable you are in large/small classes. When researching schools, find student to teacher ratios. Also, be aware of the size of a school. Throughout high school, I always thought that being at a large school was not for me. I wanted a small school where it would be easy to become close to everyone on campus; however, being I chose to attend an extremely large school. Being at a school of over 50,000 total students seems scary, but it is easy to make Rutgers seem to be small by getting involved.
7. Do not rely on reputations
Every school has a reputation, whether it be a “school for partying," “smart school," or “not great school," you never know until you fully immerse yourself. Do not believe reputations until you find information of your own. A university may have low rankings, but a certain department could be top ranked. You also do not have to follow the reputation of a school. One college may be known as the “party school”, but you still have the choice to skip out on the parties and stay in for a movie night with your friends.
Never jump to conclusions when you are choosing your school. Take time to explore your options, and what each college has to offer. You do not have to know exactly where you want to end up in a few years, but choosing a school that makes you feel comfortable and at home is so important.