Typically, individuals interested in starting their college career (or continuing it) are faced with two main considerations: Do you choose a program first and then find a school with that preferred program? Or should you choose the school first and then find a program there that suits you? There are certainly pros and cons to both but in the end, it will depend mostly on you and your needs during enrollment.
There are many factors that should influence your college choice (and some that should not). You’ll want to consider what subjects you’re interested in, how far you’re willing to travel, if you’re willing to move, and overall what you value in your schooling experience. You might find yourself passionate about a particular field or a particular school, meaning what you prioritize in your education career can change how you look at and apply to schools.
What Do You Want Out of College?
If you value the experience of college, you’re likely trying to find the right school—rather than a specific program—for you. But what exactly are you looking for in a college experience: Do you want a school with plenty of social events? A school with dorms? A school with various sport teams? Do you want to be somewhere completely different than the place you reside in now? If you’re going for the overall experience of college, finding a school with extracurriculars and a unique, involved culture that fits your personality will be instrumental in keeping you motivated during your time in school.
After you’ve found a few schools with the perfect mixture of social events and culture, you should take a look at the programs and instructors to see if the school really is the best fit for you. The experience of college is important, however. If you are passionate about a particular subject or program, and the school fails to offer that, it’d be worth searching for an alternative. Fun and exciting college culture can be found on campuses everywhere!
College vs. Major
Unfortunately, however, not all will offer a program or major that’s perfect for you. If you’re really interested in a particular school, yet they don’t seem to really fit you academically, you’ll have to ask yourself if you’re prepared to switch or generalize majors in order to keep that desired campus culture. And who knows! You might end up discovering a new subject you’re extremely passionate about without having to sacrifice your dream campus.
Consider Online Colleges
Finding the best match for you and your education experience involves asking yourself the right kind of questions: Are you looking to simply earn your degree quickly? Do you really care about a social environment and experience? Are you able to relocate near your school? If you find that you’re more interested in a degree or program rather than partaking in the traditional college campus atmosphere, or if relocating isn’t a possibility, it’d be worth considering pursuing your degree online.
Experts at the University of Maryland explain that, “the online format allows you to pick the school that suits your wants and needs without concern for geographic location. There are many programs out there, but if you do some research and think about your own learning style, you can prepare yourself to make the right decision about which school to attend and how best to get your degree.” Earning a degree can be done quickly through online courses and arm you with the kind of knowledge, authority, and involvement that others achieve through an on-campus experience.
Online schooling is also a great option for those occupied with a current job and/or family but want to return to school. You might even be considering returning to school to make a step up in your career, meaning you’ll likely not have the time or energy to visit a campus every day. Furthermore, if you do have specific career goals, searching the type of degree you need, then finding the school with a program that’s well suited for you and your aspirations will be the best approach to take. Of course online school simply might not work for you and that’s OK! If you find yourself really wanting the experience of college then there are some other questions you should be asking yourself.
The College Crossroads
Applying for the next step in your education career is undoubtedly difficult. With so many possibilities to consider, you might find yourself at a crossroads. However, reflecting on what you really need from your college is a great way to help make a decision on the school that’s best for you. What you value and prioritize in yourself, your teachers, and atmosphere is important to keep at the forefront of your mind during this process. If you stick true to what you want, your college experience will end up being exactly what you need.
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