The First Step In The College Search Process:  Decide What You Want

What do you want out of a college?

Flickr user UGA CAES/Extension

Starting your search for the right college can be daunting. There are over 5,000 colleges and universities to choose from around the country, and they all have something to offer, whether it is state-of-the-art technology labs, well-equipped gym facilities or an active campus that bustles with intelligent, like-minded people.  How do you know which one is the right one for you? How do you know which one will offer you an environment that will let you thrive?

Before you start exploring the institutions, the first step should be to decide what you want. Once you have a clear idea of what you want, it will be easier for you to then shortlist the colleges that tick all the boxes. So, what do you want?

Culture and Social Environment

Do you enjoy being surrounded by artists and creative individuals or do you prefer the competitive nature of college sports?

Do you have an activist mindset? Are social and political issues important to you?  Perhaps you are more casual and not that political?

A college campus’s overall social and cultural climate can make a tremendous difference to your overall college experience. You are going to be spending at least the next four years at the campus you choose. You want to make sure that the cultural and social environment is a good fit for your ideals, and personal preferences.

Location Matters

If you’ve always been a city-dweller but are curious about life in a small town, check out colleges that are located in the suburbs, or those that have a more rural campus.

Or maybe you’ve been in a rural area all your life, and you are curious about what a larger city may have to offer.

Location really does matter when it comes to college campuses. Urban campuses offer a completely different experience from rural or suburban campuses. While you may find a rural campus stifling if you prefer the hustle and bustle of a large city, you will absolutely love it if you are the outdoor-loving type of person.

Large or Small? Or Somewhere In Between?

Much like the overall location, the size of the campus matters too! Some students may prefer a small campus with a small student population, while others thrive in large-campus, crowded settings. Consider the size of the campus while also checking out its location. What may seem fun and invigorating for a few weeks may later become overwhelming or daunting further into the year.

What Type of School Is This?

Pay attention to what kind of teaching, learning, and academic environment is featured at the school you are interested in.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What types of resources are available?
  • What’s the library like?
  • What kind of lab situations do they have?
  • What types of dorms are available?
  • Is the major you are currently interested in available as a field of study?

Sometimes a school brochure can answer these questions, and for others, only a campus tour and visit will do. Do some research online or locally before you get your heart set on a school that may not meet your needs, whether those needs are academic, financial, or social.

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