Choosing the Right College

You like the idea of small classes, but the lack of nightlife isn’t very appealing. Maybe you’re hoping to go to college in the big city but you’re not too sure about taking a bus to get from one side of campus to the other. With hundreds of colleges out there competing for your attention – and money – finding the one for you can be daunting at best (and a nightmare at worst). The following tips can help reduce the time and stress involved in choosing a college:

1. Decide what kind of college you want: Community colleges provide an inexpensive option for a college degree. Many students begin their journey here, moving on after a year or two to a state or private school. State universities will often give tuition discounts to in-state residents, significantly reducing the overall cost of a student’s education. Private colleges offer few or no discounts, leaving the student to rely on scholarships and financial aid. A more common option in recent years is the vocational/technical school, which offers specialized training in a variety of fields for less than the cost of a traditional college.

2. Small college vs. large: Many students don’t take population into account when making a decision, but it could make all the difference when trying to get into a class you need. Small colleges often have a more informal feeling, and majors can find a built-in support group when taking the same types of classes with the same students and teachers year after year. This can be a comforting feeling, but other students may feel stifled by the close-knit camaraderie. Large universities can provide more anonymity and more plentiful extracurricular activities, but classes can frequently have a capacity of a hundred or more students, making it difficult to have that coveted one-on-one educational relationship with the professor. The population question expands to cover almost every aspect of your college experience.

3. Choosing a major: It’s true most students don’t know what major to choose when entering college, but many have a good idea already what academic fields interest them. If you fall into this category, consider finding colleges that offer majors in or similar to your interests. If you have dreams of becoming an entrepreneur or CEO, you may want to look at colleges with a business or finance major. If you’ve always been fascinated by archaeology and really want to learn more about the ancient Romans and their language, a university without a major in Classics or Latin may not be the place for you. Of course, you may always find a brand new passion on your road of discovery, but in that case the college probably already has what you’re looking for.

4. Going Greek (system): For some students, pledging to a fraternity or sorority is quintessential to college life, but some colleges don’t even offer them. If going Greek is something you want to experience, make sure the colleges you’re looking at have the Greek system in place. It would be a tremendous disappointment if you arrived at the university of your dreams, only to be told you can’t pledge to Tau Kappa Epsilon because there are no chapters on campus. (If you’re more interested in the academic-based fraternities that don’t always have chapter houses, do some research to find out if the college you’re interested in participates even if they don’t have a Greek system.)

These tips should help you in making some crucial decisions and avoid pitfalls along the way. Feel proud in making a proactive, informed decision about your life; this is an important first step on your journey to adulthood, and if you’ve made the right choice in schools, one of the most enjoyable.

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