How to Choose the Best College for You
Culture Fit as Part of College Matching
For those interested in Higher Education, the college selection process can be one of the most rewarding yet challenging experiences in life.
I remember watching television 📺 shows as an adolescent that depicted college life, attending homecomings, tailgates, and sports games. Watching these shows, I started to wonder about my college experience and envision myself on a college or university campus. I became curious about the possibilities that existed.
We all have this idea of what a college or university will look like, but very few question what it will feel like. It is essential to attend an institution that fits and represents you. Fit and belonging outside and inside the classroom are equally as important as education in a college or university setting.
If a student cannot gain a sense of belonging or community at their institution, the likelihood of educational success is greatly reduced. Think about a time you felt authentic, safe, and like your voice mattered. I’m sure your confidence and feeling of success skyrocketed 🚀 simply because you felt like you fit.
Apply those same sentiments to your college/university search!
I read a quote that stated, “A well-developed college list reflects your best understanding of who you are, what matters to you, and how you see the world.”
It’s important not to assume that an institution is a suitable place for you based on others’ experiences--it must be right for you.
Remember 🧠: the choice is yours, and yours alone. Here are some things to keep in mind during your search process:
- There are over 5,000+ institutions in the United States alone, so take the time to research the different institutions.
- There is no such thing as starting too early ⏰ in the college/university search process. The admissions process is competitive, and you want to be as prepared as possible.
- There are tons of institutions where you can receive a great education in addition to a great experience.
Where to Start? What to Consider?
It is important to create an initial list of institutions that interest you. This list should include dream schools, match schools, and safety schools. That list may be created based on, but is not limited to, location, safety, and reputation. After compiling your list, begin the search and research process.
Primary factors in the college/university selection process often include:
- Affordability 💰
- Location 🗺
- Reputation ✨
- Counselor/ Collegiate Recommendations
- Family/Friends/Alumni Recommendations
- SAT/ACT Requirements ✏️
However, there are other factors to consider when finding and selecting a potential institution. Is it diverse and inclusive? Is the institution safe (based on the crime rate and response rate)? What is the culture on campus like? Then, you can delve deeper into college or university, using those factors to determine whether or not the institution might be a good fit. These additional factors could potentially help you eliminate schools from your list—that one school that was in your top three may even drop to the bottom of your list.
Location, affordability, cost-effectiveness remain as top factors. For some students, it is imperative that they attend an institution that is as far away from their home state as possible. If that applies to you, the location will rank as a number one deciding factor. Below is a list of factors you may want to consider before applying;
- Access: Opportunities to study abroad, Availability of internships, Community service events, and assistance with life after college
- Social Life: Proximity to local restaurants, malls, etc
- Campus Culture: What rules/policies exist? Are first-year students allowed to have a vehicle on campus?
- Reputation and Reviews: Websites and tours are designed to show a certain aesthetic and enthusiasm, but what are current students saying?
- Representation and Belonging: Would you feel seen and heard? How many African- American women currently major in computer science?
- Communities on Campus: What cultural student groups exist? What Fraternities and Sororities are active? Do they have any groups/programs that support LGBQT+?
- Majors and Faculty: How diverse is the faculty? What majors are available? Are there any non-traditional majors, such as Gaming Management? Are there any unnecessary prerequisites?
- Dorms and Campus Aesthetics: What is housing like on campus? How is the food on campus?
- Safety: How is the campus police presence? Do crimes take place on campus? If so, how many?
- Financial Opportunities and Awareness: If you are a prospective college student without Grants and/or scholarships, it can be a major expense. It is important to find an institution that offers repayment options and financial literacy programs/courses.
For more help with the college search process, check out this article!
The option to pursue your education is an investment that shapes you! A lot of the value and success comes from outside the classroom. Start early and take time to really find an institution that is for you so that you can blossom into your full potential during this time. This decision is yours, and the last thing you should do is regret it.
College culture is only one of the most important things in the college decision process. Check out this article for more help in choosing a college that is right for you!