Why do you want to go to college?
This is an important question to start with because too often people decide to attend college for the wrong reasons. They are going to college to get a job, or to meet their future mate, or to pursue a field of study their parents want them to pursue, etc. Although these are all common reasons for attending college, they are not good reasons for attending college.
Good reasons are to learn something new, expand your experiences, meet new and different people, gain a better understanding of one’s self, etc. This may sound altruistic, but if you are not looking to improve yourself while at college then the money you spend will be wasted.
You do not have to know everything about yourself or your future (who does at 18) but you do need to know that there is something greater meant for you and that college can and will be the best possibility for discovering the best you there is and the best future for you.
What do you want to get out of the college experience?
This is where you need to get a piece of paper out to start making a list. Whenever you are making an important life decision you should make a list of the desired outcomes from a decision you are making (and choosing a college is a major life decision).
Take a piece of paper and think about all of the things you want to experience before your college years are over. This could include joining a Greek organization, being the head of the student government, studying abroad, getting into a graduate school, what kind of people you want to meet, learning a new language, what part of the country you want to live in, what kind of weather, studying the classic (for these academic related category, keep in mind these do not have to be your majors, they could just be areas of interest that some school can better fulfill than others). Really be honest with yourself and dream big, really imagine what the ideal 4 years in college would look like.
Now take your list of dreams, aspirations and goals and start to order them in priority order. Be honest with yourself, these are the categories that will help you do an initial search for the right school. This will also help you to also prioritize your life. When you get to college you will be inundated with opportunities and temptations, and if you have a clear purpose set out it will be easier to stay focused while being open to the possibility of new experiences.
What don’t you want to have as part of your college experience?
This is the piece of the college search that is often overlooked and can be the cause of people ending up at the wrong school. Often we are fairly clear about what we want, which can be wonderful, but we forget that we can also feel just as strongly about the things we do not want to have during our college experience.
For some people this could be location based; I don’t want to be in a rural setting, or I don’t want to be in a big city. It might be size of an institution; i don’t want to be just a number or I don’t want to be at a place were EVERYONE knows all of my business. Maybe you don’t want a bunch of “dumb jocks” around and therefor don’t want to be at a major sports institution. Maybe you don’t want to be stuck in a very cliquey place and don’t want to attend a school with a Greek system. (These are all generalizations, but I think you get the idea)
It can also be something academic you are focused on not wanting. I don’t want to be at a school that makes me take a bunch of classes I feel are irrelevant (avoid the liberal arts schools). Or possibly, I don’t want to be stuck studying just my major for 4 years (then find a liberal arts school). I don’t want to be at a place where it is too conservative or too liberal, etc.
It goes against my nature to focus on what you don’t want, but in this case, you need to be at least aware of that which you don’t want to better understand what you do want in a college. What you DO want is more important, but having an understanding of what you don’t want can be the secret behind finding the perfect school vs just finding a school that is OK for you.
Sean was a College Administrator and Faculty member for over 10 years and knows the real inside secrets to what happens at college, and how to find the college that is the best fit for you! Since he is no longer working for an specific school, he can tell it how it is without the usual scripts. These three questions are just the beginning of a successful college search.