Senior year of high school is an exhilarating time. New privileges arise and seniority is second nature. However, the final chapter in grade school isn’t just fun and games. Enormous stress is caused from the responsibility of finding a future beyond high school. For those who plan to continue education, the unprecedented search for the perfect fit is immense.
Thousands of colleges and university stretch from Boston to Los Angeles, and everywhere in between. From schools like Michigan State University with over 45,000 students, to small community colleges, there’s bound to be one perfect match.
The first step in narrowing down the search comes from an intended major. Some schools are notorious for their programs of study like Northwestern University is for their journalism school. Check out the potential schools’ web site to see what programs have strong strengths.
After you’ve decided on a major, the real search process can begin. There are many simple questions that can sift out schools that don’t match your personality.
First begin with size. Would you feel comfortable and content living with 30,000 other undergraduates in enormous classroom sizes? Or does a more personable and smaller school suit your academic needs? Determine whether you’re a student that needs a lot of personal attention with your studies. Both large and small campuses have many pros and cons. If you’re the type that thrives for clubs, sporting events, and activities, maybe a large campus is the right match. Or does a “small fish in a big pond” scenario sound compelling? Learn more specific details regarding the community size at each individual potential match. Pros from both scenarios can also be fulfilled in medium sized campuses.
Once you’ve determined the right size, think about the possible environment. Does a large metropolitan city like Boston or New York sound exciting? Or would a more country rural setting be the most ideal situation to study? Suburban schools also combine the perks from both city and country.
Now it’s time to start the list. We’ve narrowed the list down to schools with your respected major and size, so now it’s time to sift through the remaining possible candidates. Make a list of the schools that are still in consideration.
The next step is to be a realist. Average C+ grades will not be suitable for Harvard or Yale. Divide the list up into three categories: reach schools, match schools, and back-up schools. Use your judgement by comparing your grades, SAT scores, and extra curricular activities to the school’s average. Web sites such as www.collegeboard.com and www.collegesurfing.com provide tons of valuable information regarding the acceptance rate and students’ average grades and scores.
Once the list with three categories have been made, determine which schools satisfy social and miscellaneous needs. Are you big into Greek life and parties? Are you interested in band and other clubs? Does a diverse culture and politically active school sound interesting? What about sports? Do you want a prestigious and history-rich environment? Make a list of priorities and activities that are interesting.
Finally, determine your financial status. Many private name-brand universities cost over $40,000 per year. However, do not look at that price tag as the bottom line. After scholarships, federal financial aid, and loans, college can be made affordable to fit most budgets. Do not eliminate any schools solely based on the cost. This should definitely be a consideration, but not a bottom line.
The final step is to visit! Regardless of how many virtual tours and photos you’ve seen, there’s no replacing an actual visit on campus. Talk to current students and alumni and check out the culture first hand. What may look good on a computer screen could be completely different in real life. Don’t judge schools just based on how nice their web site or program is designed.
A guidance counselor or teacher can provide much more personalized advise, so don’t hesitate or wait for the perfect school to approach you. Enjoy senior year.