If you’re a high school junior, this coming summer, you will be immersed in trying to finalize the list of colleges you will apply to. And, don’t say you aren’t already thinking about it.
Unfortunately, there is a myth that there are “best” and “the rest” colleges out there. There is a pecking order, a hierarchy, of colleges for sure, but that may be hype, influence, sway. If you pick a school so you can wow people with your answer to Where are you going to school?–just remember that wow factor doesn’t last long enough to get you through four years. The “best” way to choose a college is to find out where you will fit in best.
Here are some things to think about before you make the final cut to your college list.
Lots of students think size matters. In actuality, there are boring urban campuses, and very lively rural campuses. Some larger campuses are so departmentalized or divided they may seem small, and some small campuses are very divergent. Size is not always the best indicator.
What does matter is availability of faculty and an emphasis on self learning and development. You are there to grow and stretch, to explore, but you will also need some guidance.
Name recognition is an easy way out. It’s easy to choose Cornell. Everyone has heard of it and it has a good reputation. What about Grinnell?
Some students choose a college based on its academic standing and curriculum. But, even if you’re the highest ranker in your senior high school class, you may not want a highly competitive school. Students who are not achievers in high school sometimes find their groove in college so they shouldn’t avoid challenging curricula. Some students believe they know what they want and choose a school because of the availability of core requirements in a certain field only to find out they want to head in another direction. Then, would a more open, variable curriculum be more valuable?
What about the other side of college, the non-academic side? Would you be more challenged to join leadership programs, take part in service, play athletics, or be able to do international studies? It’s important schools offer possibilities to you and that there is strong participation in such programs.
There really is no perfect place. What you need to allow for is that you are doing the choosing for yourself. Don’t listen to idle chatter, be swayed by peer pressure, or try to meet expectations of others. Try to choose a school where you will be most comfortable.