Getting into the College that’s right for you

The important thing to realize is that there are many, many colleges that are “right” for you. Even though each college has its unique attributes, there is tremendous similarities in types of college, and you can find dozens of colleges that offer very similar experiences. Remember that the administrators of these colleges and the professors all come out of the same academic environment, attend the same conferences, read the same journals, etc. And they transfer from one school to the next, just like people switch jobs within their field. So the differences among schools are overblown.

With that observation in mind, I’d recommend that you think about what you are seeking in college, and then find a large subset of them that meet your primary criteria. Keep in mind that you can’t possibly know much about what your experience will be until you actually live it, so trying to select every variable is a waste of time.

Select just a few attributes. Here are some examples.

Do you want a big school where you will have teaching assistants, or a small school where you will be taught by actual professors, though those professors will not necessarily be as formidable as researchers in their fields?

Do you want an urban, sububurban, or rural environment? The disadvantage of urban is that often the on-campus life suffers because people use the urban amenities instead of on-campus. Also, urban campuses typically are less safe (not always).

Are you religious? Do you want a heavy religious influence in your academic and social experience? There are tons and tons of Christian colleges today, for example, and a lot of them have some good academic programs.

Do you have a sense of your likely major? If you do, you might aim for schools that are good in that area.

Do you want to go the fraternity-sorority route? If not, find a school that doesn’t have the “Greek” system, or for which the Greeks are a very minor social activity.

These are just some of things you could ask yourself. But the point is that you can’t aim for just the one school that has all of them pointed in your direction. And even if you found that school, you have no idea if that will really work out. The whole point of college is to broaden your mind and become open to new ideas and new experiences – so don’t close yourself off by picking a school that only has things you already are comfortable with. Take a chance; you only live once.