Many young people grow up with the understanding that they are expected to attend “the best college.” This expectation, often instilled in youth by their parents, teachers, and the media, has high school students pulling all-nighters, cramming their resumes with as
many extracurricular activities as possible, and stressing out over AP classes, standardized tests, and GPAs—all to gain admission into Ivy League schools and other top-tier colleges. There is certainly nothing wrong with being ambitious, but at what cost? While parents, teachers, and counselors absolutely should be encouraging their kids to aim for “the best college,” there is something critical missing from this phrase: for you.
Children should never feel like they’re limited to attending one of the 20 or so “top schools” and if they don’t get in, they have already “failed in life.” What a way to start becoming an adult when there are thousands of colleges all around the world that could provide just as valuable an experience if not a more valuable experience. There is a college for everyone just as there is a life for everyone. College more than anything is a community of people of certain interests coming together and nurturing each other’s minds. Teachers, Professors, Janitors, Seniors, Juniors, Friends and Foes are equally necessary for the learnings that four years of college provides. Everybody is unique—each with their own talents, interests, experiences, and preferences. Students should thus consider applying to those colleges that best cater to their unique needs and preferences.
What’s also important for students and their parents to remember is that college is so
much more than academics. College is going to be your home for the next 4 years. It is a phase of life during which you will grow not only intellectually, but also personally, socially, and spiritually. Your choice of college should therefore reflect your whole self rather than just your academic self.
Below are a number of factors to consider when deciding on the right college for you.
- Academics: Since a majority of your time in college will be spent studying, this is an important factor to consider. Think about the subjects that truly interest you. If you’re passionate about biology, for example, you might look into colleges with strong biology programs—which may or may not be in the Ivy League. If, on the other hand, you have no idea what you want to study and want an opportunity to explore different subjects, think about what schools will give you the flexibility to do that. Another important aspect of academics to consider is what type of learning environment works best for you. Do you prefer small class sizes that allow for more intimate interactions with professors? Or does the large lecture hall work better for you? If you’re hoping to get more hands-on experience during college, perhaps look into colleges with strong internship or work-study programs.
- Location: College will be your home away from home for at least 4 years, so you want to make sure that the location is one in which you feel safe and comfortable. Think about how far away you want to be from your family. Do you prefer to be in a big city or a rural area? Would you like to be in a contained, isolated college campus, or one that is scattered and integrated throughout the city? Many colleges also offer study abroad programs. If there’s a country you’ve always wanted to experience as more than just a tourist, see if your college will allow you to study there for a semester or a year. Finally, it’s important to consider the physical location. Are you okay living in a climate susceptible to snowstorms? Or do you want to bask in the sun all year round? Will you need a car to get around on weekends? If so, make sure you can have a car on campus.
- Social Life: College is an incredible time to meet new people and try your hand at new hobbies and activities. If you’re into intramural sports, look at colleges that offer them. Want to join a sorority or fraternity? Greek life is very big on some campuses, not so much on others. Some schools have a major culture of school spirit, especially when it comes to sports. Think about whether that’s your cup of tea. Learn about what extracurricular activities and student organizations are on campus. Consider whether you want to attend a co-ed college or a single-sex college. If religion is an integral part of your life, perhaps look into some religious colleges. Also important to consider is your living environment. Do you want to live with roommates? By yourself? On campus? In an apartment? Are you okay with loud parties or are you more introverted? Spend some time on campus and think about whether it is conducive to your needs and preferences.
- Cost: Though not always pleasant, it’s important to consider your financial situation when choosing a college. Remember that cost doesn’t just include tuition, but also housing, food, and leisure activities. If cost is a concern, look into whether the college offers scholarships or whether there are opportunities for work, either on- or off-campus.
No one college is perfect for everyone, but there is sure to be a college that best suits your needs and preferences. So as you start preparing your college applications, don’t just think about rankings and prestige, but also about what is the best fit for the adult life that you are getting ready to live. If you want to learn more about a certain college from the perspective of a current student or alum, join Konversai. Konversai is the world’s largest database of personal knowledge and you will find many college students here who want to talk about their experience with you. You can connect and communicate about college admissions and college life. Choosing a college will be overwhelming, but Konversai will help you make the process a little easier and definitely a lot more fun. So as you prepare for the next chapter of your life, come to Konversai and find a friendly guide or guides who can show you the best path for you.