How Do I Pick the Perfect College?
Parents and college-bound students are always wondering how to choose a college. I have simplified the process for college planning for college-bound high school students, but here are a few recommended steps to ensure success. While there are many different ways to start the college search process, you should expect unplanned detours along the way and consider these steps as merely starting points to your journey. At the moment, college seems like the destination, but trust me, college is just one of the steps you take in life.
The college search process can be an emotional ride, so buckle up!
Your progress and the path will unfold as your wants and needs change, making this challenging because it makes the process longer. Changing your mind as you go is normal and should be accepted. Your goal is to find the right college, and you should put in the necessary time required to make that happen!
What Should I Use as a Starting Point When Choosing a College?
The different starting points help you understand what you want from a college. No matter the starting point, the guidance covers all essential factors to determine the best fit. Your starting point should be the option that makes the most sense to you and factors in your goals. As you start, consider the:
- type of school and location (public/private, small/large, urban or rural)
- major (broad-based, liberal arts, hybrid-options, and number of options in each major)
- school ranking and expected degree outcome (Ivy League, competitive, or open admission based; BA, BS, MA, Ph.D.)
An easy way to get started is to use the Goldilocks principle:
- Is the college too far away, too hard, or doesn’t have your major?
- Is the college is too close, too small, too “easy,” doesn’t “feel” right?
- Is college far enough away, has your major, and has almost everything I want, and “is just right.”
It is often easier to eliminate colleges based on the Goldilocks principle, then search from what is left. And no matter what, your goal is to graduate from the school you pick!
When looking at the type of school, we need to determine what makes sense for you.
The first step in picking a university is deciding what type of school would best suit your needs and desires. Do you want a small liberal arts college, or do you want something larger with more cache and more opportunities? Are you interested in an out-of-state school that will push you academically and socially? Or maybe even one abroad? Or is something small, close by better for you? Or is there another combination that you have in mind?
If you are uncertain about the type or location of the school to attend, then maybe we can approach this differently.
A second path to follow is to focus on the major. Do you want to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, teacher, or accountant? Do you want to be a writer, or researcher, or maybe even work in business? Does the place where your undergraduate degree comes from matter more than a potential graduate degree? Or do you need to get the best grades possible to apply to grad school? If you do get a graduate degree, does that grad school need to be more prestigious than your undergraduate college?
If you want to learn more about how to pick the perfect college, watch this video!
Ok, don’t know which major to pick? Don’t worry!
You are still very young, and maybe you don’t have enough life experience to determine what you want to do for the rest of your life! Don’t panic, and don’t give up (some colleges specialize in letting you find your way before declaring your major).
If location, size, and major won’t work, maybe we should focus on the school’s ranking.
College and University rankings are a controversial topic, with many varying opinions. Still, they can provide a bit of guidance when you are struggling with direction. If you have seen my videos on college planning or read some of my work, you will learn I am very opposed to the terms “reach” and “safety” school! Both of those terms imply you didn’t belong academically at that college. Second, the so-called “academic reach” college may not be a good fit for you for non-academic reasons. Still, people get so focused on getting accepted to their “academic reach” college they don’t consider any other factors.
Some of these other factors that impact what is the right college for students are:
- four-year graduation rates
- six-year graduation rates
- number of students per class on average
- overall admission factors such as incoming student GPA
Sadly, these kids are often the ones that wash out within the first year. The college experience often chases them away from any college in the future.
Each of these paths has its strengths and weaknesses, and you may need to travel down each one to find the right fit. Finding the perfect college is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. Lots and lots of choices, but we are only looking for that one specific thing.
When Should I Start Looking for Colleges and Universities?
Well, in a sense, you should have started planning for college in 5th grade. This is when specific skills like math and habitual academic behaviors begin to matter. For most everyone else, kids will start somewhere during high school by visiting colleges. No matter what, you really can’t start later than the summer before your senior year.
The problem with starting during the summer before your senior year is that you have to devote a portion of your summer to college planning. Probably not your dream summer, right?
Will my High School Help with How to Choose a College?
The short answer is no, not really. The long answer is that school is concerned with every graduating senior, and we are only concerned with the one we have in front of us! Schools want to make sure that all of their college-bound students apply to college and hope most end up going somewhere. From their standpoint, any future education is better than no education.
Ok, so I understand the paths, and which one(s) may work better than another, now what do I do?
Your choice of a college or university to put you on the higher education path and major decision might be the biggest decision you have made in your life. You must spend the necessary time researching the schools, working on your essays, and submitting perfect applications. There are several different platforms to explore the different paths. There are also many different ways to prep for tests, writing essays, and submitting applications.
Choosing a college can feel overwhelming, but many students go to colleges and universities all over the country, so don’t give up, keep up the search, and you will eventually find the right school for you!
Where can I get help with test scores, pick colleges, work with essays, financial aid, and help with applications?
Why Engenius Learning Center, of course. We can help with all of your college planning needs, and tutor in most subjects. Let us help with your college search and we will help you choose a college perfect for you.
To get help from us, email Mike Flynn at email@example.com, and I will add you to the College Bound cohort that starts in early June. We can’t take too many students, so please let me know soon if you want me to save you save you a spot.
What will the College Bound course look like?
We will be holding weekly meetings in June to find the perfect college for you! The sessions will be hour-long, group meetings, with additional tutoring lessons to work on specific skills. Each of the group lessons will be online and recorded, so you can go back at any point and review what I covered. I will also have an online, asynchronous curriculum with written content to work on outside of the cohort lessons. Assistance with financial aid will be directed at college costs and ways to get merit-based scholarships.
In addition to the group meeting, we will set up tutoring sessions to work specifically on test prep questions or if you want additional help with your college essays.