College is such a turning point in a person’s life that a lot of thought must go into the decision of where to study. Where you go to college will determine what sorts of people you meet, what sorts of degree programs you can pursue, and what sorts of jobs you’re qualified for once you’re out of college. If you plan to attend graduate school, too, that must be a consideration: it’s unlikely you will get into a top-rated graduate, for instance, if you’ve only got your degree at a tiny community college. Above all else, make sure the universities you’re looking at are accredited.
Don’t narrow your choices too far
Oftentimes juniors and seniors in high school, when they decide to pick a path, choose that path and think they will certainly still want that degree once they’ve started taking classes. Statistical average is that at this point, one out of four students changes their major at some point before graduation. That’s all well-and-good, but if you’ve chosen, say, a school that only teaches film degrees, you’re going to have to transfer if you want to change your major too much. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t choose a specialty school because they can be great, but you will need to put a lot of thought in to determine whether this is something you want to do for the rest of your life or if it’s something you’re just interested in for the moment.
If you don’t know what to major in
If you have no idea what to major in, that’s okay—many schools don’t expect you to know. Your best bet is to pick a school with a wide variety of subjects available—like a state university—and take classes in a variety of subjects you freshman year. Also, try knocking out your core requirements as much as you can, since those will be applicable no matter what program you end up choosing.
Don’t choose based purely on location
That’s not to say location shouldn’t be a factor at all—if you’re set on going to a city and you end up in the middle of the prairie, you may not have as good a time as you might have had otherwise. But if it comes down to choosing a school that’s going to be better academically and a school you’re going to have more fun at in your social life, pick the school that will help you academically. College students are college students everywhere, and you’ll find people to hang out with no matter where you are.
Don’t choose based purely on cost
Attending a university is expensive, sure, but if you can help it, you shouldn’t choose where you’re going purely because it’s the cheapest option. If you’re really going to have a hard time financing your education, look into scholarships and grant programs. Make sure you’ve filled out your FAFSA and see if you can get some government dollars pointed towards your education. Make sure you’ve applied to multiple schools and see which one offers you the best scholarship package—sometimes, the schools that are more expensive will offer more in scholarships to make up for that. Talk to guidance counsellors or advisors and make sure you know your options.
Attend college fairs
It may seem boring to go to these, but college fairs are actually really useful for getting information about different colleges, especially if you’ve narrowed down your choices some ahead of time and don’t have to hit every booth. These events are often put on by high schools in the area and are easy to find if you talk to a guidance counsellor or advisor. At college fairs, you will have the opportunity to talk with a representative of the school and ask them specific questions about things that interest you. This can help you get a feel for what life on campus is really like. Remember, though, that all these people are trying to ‘sell’ their school, so you should take everything with a grain of salt.
Choose based on you
You’re the one who’s going to be going to school there for four years, give or take; make sure this is somewhere you want to go. Don’t go there because your parents think you should or your guidance counsellor thinks you should, not even if you feel you owe something to them. This is your life, and if you end up not doing the degree program you want to get the job you’ve always dreamt of, you could be seriously unhappy in the future. Chances are you’re a legal adult or close to it by the time you go to college; it’s time to start making your own decisions and taking responsibility for them.