Looking for colleges is as exciting as it is frightening. It is often hard to see where to begin and what to look for. Many start with college rankings, but there are some more important aspects to observe. Here are our top four tips on finding the right college for you:
Reputability matters, but don’t get fooled by the overall reputation: college X might be ranked very high on the charts, but if its position is based on the STEM subjects, it won’t matter too much for your philosophy degree. It’s important to keep your intended major in mind while searching. Keep an eye out for the department’s reputation! Once you choose a dozen or so colleges that you find interesting, check out the curriculum and decide on the style of teaching you want.
Every college is different: some might concentrate more on the practical, some of the theoretical; some might give big lectures, while others prefer to organize most of their work in smaller groups; or the difference might be in a stronger focus on a certain aspect of the subject. All these things matter, honestly, and sometimes it is worth compromising on the ranking to get the teaching style that serves you best.
Every city is different, as well. Check out the lifestyle on the campus and in the nearest city/town. There are no specific instructions for this because it all depends on what you want and need. You can check some things on various web pages, but also try to find someone with whom you could chat, either on a forum or, even better, in the official Facebook group formed for students of that specific college.
Things to keep in mind: Do you like big cities or would prefer a campus situated away from all the distracting noise? Do you hope to stay close to home or go as far away as possible? Do you want a place buzzing with all types of different people, or would you feel more comfortable in a small local college? What would you like to do on a free weekend—go hiking, visit an art exhibition or just have as many coffee dates as humanly possible? What type of club scene do you hope to have? Your parents might say that those things are not important when choosing a college, because the primary reason for going there is to study, however, leading a satisfying life outside of your lectures does reflect on your mental health and thus can have a significant impact on your studying.
If you see a college that you really like but feel that it is out of your reach, listen to your heart and go for it! Be ambitious! We should always inspire to do better but possibly have a back-up plan. There are many ways to get in, such as showing remarkable improvement, writing a great cover letter, presenting impressive achievements in extracurricular activities, etc. It is far from easy, and but also just as far from impossible. If people try to bring you down and tell you it is just a dream, ignore them and show them that a dream can come true. Work hard, get a genius friend or a tutor to help you with any subjects you feel could hurt your chances, and apply!
In the USA, higher education is expensive, especially when it comes to prestigious colleges, and money has an undeniable role in choosing a college. Of course, you also must bear in mind that the college fees are just one part of the expenses, you will have to pay for your living expenses as well: accommodation, food, books, nights out, etc… Most people would put money as the first point on this list. The reason why we did not do that is because we want you to feel ambitious and motivated to get passed the limitations!
There are, of course, loans, but don’t forget about the scholarships and grants. They are difficult to get, but there is always a chance. College Raptor is a great site to match you with colleges that offer scholarships, plus you can always check the webpage of the college to learn more.
Finally, if you are not 100% in love with a certain college and accompanying campus, then you should probably check other similar ones, offering your subjects in the teaching style that you want, and in an environment that you like, but which might be cheaper. Compromising on the raking is not the worst thing, as long as the other factors are up to your liking.