FINDING A COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY THAT IS THE RIGHT FIT FOR YOU
- 29/11/2017 11:35
Being a college student certainly brings a myriad of challenges but amidst these challenges, opportunities abound. College years are supposed to be an exciting time where students are supposed to grow intellectually and socially, and learn to think creatively and critically. College is a distinct environment where each individual is encouraged to become analytical thinkers, imagine the unimaginable, become problem solvers, strive for self independence, etc. It is an experience that is undoubtedly irreplaceable, but it is largely upon you to make the most out of these boundless opportunities presented to you. With over thirty-six hundred colleges in the US, and the tuition skyrocketing at such a rapid pace, selecting the college that's the "right fit" for you is, to say the least, of crucial importance. Figuring out how to pay for a college education is worrisome enough and the pressure to get into a "good college" has never been greater. College is a business and with all the marketing and advertising tools at their disposal, the process of selecting a school can be both confusing and misleading. While there are ample resources available to help you with your decision, checking out college books, websites and brochures is simply not enough. Before getting into that "Ideal college", that will lead to a fulfilling undergraduate experience, you must do a lot of legwork way before you're a senior in high school. Thus, how do you go about making the decision about selecting the so called "right fit" school? The following are some top factors you should not ignore in your college search:
Graduation rate and graduating on time-Some colleges have horrendous graduation rates and many of their students do not graduate within four years. This is a well-kept secret that many colleges don't want you to know. It is incumbent upon you to find out the facts. Graduation and retention rates reveal a lot about a particular college.
Size and teacher to student ratio-Do you see yourself attending a large school (i.e. UMass Amherst has over 18,000 undergraduate students) or does your personality call for a smaller setting? If you opt for a large school, chances are some of your classes will be held at large lecture halls with dozens, if not hundreds of other students. Attending a small or medium-size school will give you the opportunity to be in smaller classes. Therefore, find out the school's average class size, how accessible the professors are, whether they take interest in knowing you personally and meeting with you individually, and if they have office hours. Of paramount importance is getting to know your professors and getting the help/assistance you may need and deserve.
Location and geography-Where do you want to pursue your college studies? Is the school located in a large city or small town? Is it close or far from home and is it in or out of state? Is a yea-round sunshine important to you or do you prefer a more diverse climate that calls for a winter ski season. Are you the type of student who will want to come home during the breaks and holidays? If so, you may want to stay within driving distance from home.
Academic majors-Does the school offer the major you're considering? If applying as undeclared, does the school offer a strong liberal arts program? If enrolling as undeclared, will you eventually get into your chosen major? What are the academic requirements and the specific courses for your chosen major, and what job-placement services does the college provide?
Private vs. Public-Is the school private or public, is it a 2 year or a 4 year school?
Academic support-Does the school offer academic support/tutoring services particularly to the freshmen students who are adjusting to college life and rigor of college courses, and does the school have counselors that you can readily meet with if needed? Remember, college is a huge undertaking and everyone will go through some sort of adjustment.
Financial aid/Merit based scholarship-What percentage of students receive financial aid and what types of merit based scholarships are available for students who excel academically, athletically, and/or artistically?
Cost- College is very expensive but not every school has the same price tag. The cost of college is of paramount importance to most parents but there are several ways you can minimize the cost of attendance to help ease the financial burden. Always find out the annual cost of tuition, including room and board if you're going to be living on campus. There are also other costs associated with tuition such as books, transportation, insurance, etc. Also, to qualify for financial aid, be sure to fill out the FAFSA-Free application for federal student aid, right after the first of October of your senior year. (Application is available online at fafsa.ed.gov). In addition to the FAFSA, some private schools also require the CSS-Profile and the application is available online at Collegeboard.org. Always check with your school to see which financial aid forms are required.
Selectivity- How difficult is it to get into the school? What percentage of students get admitted each year? How big is the freshmen class and what are the requirements for acceptance? Do you have the required courses, GPA-grade point average- and test scores (SAT, ACT) to be considered for admission? Have you been involved in extra-curricular activities in high school? Is the school single sex or co-ed?
Diversity-There's a whole new and different world out there. Attending a school with a diverse student body can help you prepare for a multicultural world and workforce. If diversity is an important factor in your college search, find out if the school is committed to a diverse student body and if there's someone in charge of multicultural recruitment.
Campus safety-What does the school do to ensure the safety and security of its students? Ask about the presence of campus security officers, outdoor lighting, escort services at night, emergency phones, dorm entrance security, and campus and surrounding neighborhood crime rates. Ask other students about security concerns/incidents on campus.
Non-academic and social life-As a college student you'll need to be responsible but you're also allowed to have some fun. Are there social and extra-curricular activities offered by the school that appeal to you? Find out about the availability of athletic, social, academic, and recreational clubs.
VISIT, VISIT, VISIT-The importance of visiting a college before applying and/or enrolling cannot be underestimated. Colleges offer tours and open houses throughout the year. Before you visit, have your list of questions ready, speak with your tour guides, speak with the professors and students, and if possible, sit in a classroom while lecturing is in progress.
Finally, take this process seriously, challenge yourself academically while in high school, and get the best grades possible. Get a part time job, be involved in extra-curricular activities, and if possible do some volunteer work as this will score you some points with colleges. Remember, colleges are looking for student that are well-rounded. Your parents should be fully involved in the process. Visit your guidance counselor as often as you can and establish a good rapport with him/her. Your counselor is likely the most important resource you'll have in preparing for college admission. Good luck, and may you select the "right fit" college.
BY: Alcides Pina-School Counselor and Advanced Placement/Testing Coordinator, West Bridgewater High School (C) 2016