One of the most daunting and stressful tasks for many new students is selecting the right school for them. After all, they are leaving the comfort, familiarity and confidence of their home to be independent, perhaps for the first time. there is bound to be some anxiety about getting the ‘right place’. However, there are so many factors to consider when deciding upon a good fit, all of which depend on the priorities of the individual student. Some people put school reputation above everything, while for others it might be the costs involved or the actual facilities and resources available.
Altogether, these factors reflect three broad headings when searching for the ideal school fit:
When choosing a school the primary consideration should be related to the subject you are hoping to major in, the one that will launch you on your career. What kind of study programmes does the school provide? Don’t worry if you change your mind a number if times on this choice, but finding a college that specialises in your subject is the first step. It means it is more likely to offer the quality and depth in the subject that you require. It is very easy to go for the perceived ‘top’ schools with big brand names. While some future employers might be impressed, most employers are looking for outstanding skills and experience, not just college pedigree. Furthermore, the competition for places in these hothouses will be very tight. The experiences and opportunities encountered while at college, coupled with your personal qualities and traits, will set you on your journey, not just the actual school you attended.
The second thing is to make the assumption that you CAN afford college because when it comes to costs, mindset is equally as important as the practicalities. Money is never an easy matter at these times, but if you investigate all the options and ask for help and advice, you will find affordable choices as well as financial assistance with suitable packages available. Online resources, including college and university financial aid web sites, offer useful information and relevant links. Start the exploration process early to help you make your decision and don’t be afraid to seek assistance.
Finally, under this section will be the the nature of the school itself and its campus facilities. Key questions here would be whether it is a religious school or an independent one. Public or private? What does the school have to offer students in its facilities? Is it well endowed with the various labs, technology, libraries and research facilities? Is it known for its innovation and quality tutoring? All these are very important academic questions that will decide the quality of your experience and the personal fit.
2. Location and School Size
When you are trying to select a college with a suitable size you should look at yourself first before you make that decision. Are you the self-sufficient type or do you need warm, familial support in a smaller community of people? Will you thrive on lots of social happenings in a bustling town or would you welcome peace, quiet and a lot of greenery? A small town will offer a strong feeling of community, which may be a comfort when you are leaving home for the first time. Moreover, at a smaller school, students may be able to meet more people and become better acquainted with their tutors. On the other hand, a larger school is likely to offer more facilities, a more diverse population and wider experience as well as more varied activities being available. A larger school is also likely to have more accommodation and housing options. Size does matter when it comes to our personalities so try to choose the right location and size for your sense of comfort.
3. Personal and Social Compatibility
Choosing a college because your friends are going there, because your parents attended it or because of where it ranks on a performance list does not take into account who you are and wish to be. As someone once said, “College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won” so finding a good fit is about matching you, not anyone else. You really need to know key factors about yourself: your likes and dislikes and your levels of comfort and discomfort, because the college you choose will have to feel comfortable for you. You may be living in this area and attending this school for four years or more so it is very important to feel like you belong. A sense of belonging suggests that you like the people who attend this school, the clubs and activities seem like fun or the town is a place you could picture yourself being in. Thus, before making any decision, make sure you visit the campus. You may think that the academics are good and the size of both school and town seem promising, but if you go to the campus and you do not like the vibe or atmosphere, this school is definitely not right for you, and it won’t get any better. When you visit, try to sit in on classes, eat in the dining hall and hang around in the student center or other high-traffic areas. That will help you imagine yourself as part of the community. Talk to a few students, especially to find out whether they would make the same college choice again.
If you are too far away to visit, or can’t afford the expense, visiting college websites and learning about what events take place, who are likely to visit as guest speakers, and how to get in touch with current students and faculty members, is the next best way to get the information you want. Word of mouth is another powerful recommendation so using social networking sites like Facebook to find past students and to check their opinions (at least quite a few, to rule out individual bias!) should also be of value. Finally, the admissions officer assigned to your area should be able to answer any further questions you have or at least point you in the right direction.