There are many factors one needs to think about to find a college that is a perfect fit. A couple of the factors a student should evaluate when it is time to find a college are: location, academics, cost, and campus life. If these four things are not at the forefront of every college visit, then you must reevaluate the effectiveness of your research. Before more is written about the four main factors to find a college, lets answer a question: When should a high school student start visiting college campuses? I took my first college tour during my second semester of my freshman year. Colleges look a student’s four-year portfolio; the earlier a student knows what they are looking for the earlier they can start working towards the requirements.
Location is the biggest factor to find a college that you will be successful at. The first question about location is: “Do I stay in state or do I go out of state?” This question is a little more complicated than one would think. There are many advantages to staying in state, for example: the price of tuition is usually lower for in state students than it is for out of state students. However, what if you want to experience a new environment? In a place like California, it is so big that going two hours away from your house can feel like you are out of state (but, California is a little different from most states). Another question to ask when thinking about location is: “Will I like the weather?” For me, I was born and raised in Southern California (sunshine 360 days a year); I chose to go to a college in Minnesota. It was a huge adjustment for me to cope with the snow and severe cold. It took me a year or two to end up liking the snow and knowing that this was the right location for me. As we know, people are different, if you don’t like the rain, do not go to a college in Seattle just for its name.
A college should not be chosen because it is well known. A college should be chosen because they have a good academic program and the department you want to study in has great courses to offer. As a high school student you should have discovered by your senior year what academic interest you have; do not go to school not knowing what interest you—a year of education will be wasted. This is not to say that you should know what your major is going to be; I switched my major three times. Ask question while on tour about what each major offers, who the professors are, what students think about the different academic departments, and how well those departments prepare you for life after undergrad (be it post-graduate study or a career). Finally, how big are the classes? I found that going to a smaller school was better for me because the class sizes were smaller and I received more attention form the professor.
Cost, cost, cost. I mentioned above the cost differences of going out of state versus staying in state. The cost of a college should not be a reason one choses not to go to a school that they find is right for them, but it is a factor that needs to be talked about. It is not necessary for a student to go to a school that cost fifty thousand dollars or more to study a subject when they can get the same level of education at a much cheaper school. Obviously there are tons of scholarships offered that can bring the tuition down and there are also loans (be careful when taking out loans). Just ask yourself, can you afford going to this school, and how much are you willingly to pay in loans?
Campus life is the last factor in the search for your perfect college. Is the college a residential campus? What sports are offered, and what NCAA division is the school? Are there a lot of organizations I can get involved in? If it is a residential campus, how is the cafeteria food? How many students are enrolled? What is the culture like? There are many questions that need to be asked when on a tour of a college or just researching. The environment of a campus will be huge when it comes to success in school.
As you can see, there are many questions to be asked on your search to find a college that will help you excel. When researching, know the questions to ask and what to look for in the university. Success in college will only be found if you are 100% comfortable in your college environment.