How to Choose the Best College for You
Fri Nov 08 2013 05:10:56 GMT-0800 (PST)

Planning for college can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be challenging if you're not sure what you're looking for or what you want to accomplish. Finding the right school for you can take some time, but it will also help you ensure that you get the most from your college experience. If you are looking for help in selecting a college, the tips and advice below can help you find the best path for you.

Identify Your Goals & Explore Your Options

Before you start your college search, think about your goals and what you want to get out of your college experience. Are you a high school student looking for a college that will give you the academic preparation you need to begin your career while also offering a fun and active social experience on campus? Are you a stay at home mom that wants to go back to school to broaden your skill set and prepare to launch a new career? Understanding your personal and professional goals before you begin to look for a college can help you narrow down your search and eliminate certain schools that don't fit your criteria.

After you have identified your goals and what you want to achieve, begin looking for colleges that match your preferences. You may want to look at schools close to home or far away depending on where you want to live. While you may have a few colleges already in mind, do some research on other similar schools that may also be a good fit for you to add to your list.

Choose the Best Type of Learning Environment for You

College students now have several options as far as where and how they can learn when pursuing a college degree. One of the first decisions that you should make when determining which college is best for you is to evaluate each of the following learning environments to decide which will be the best fit for your lifestyle.

On Campus. Many students opt for the traditional on-campus college experience because it provides the opportunity to meet new people, develop close friendships, and discuss questions with professors face to face. In addition, there are many clubs, groups, societies, and organizations that students can join on campus to connect with others about specific areas of interest to them. The social scene on many campuses is lively and exciting, and you can also find schools that have both a great social scene and an excellent academic reputation.

Online. Going to college online is becoming a fast growing trend because it allows students more flexibility to complete their coursework or listen to lectures at their convenience. Online classes are particularly well suited for people that work a full time or part time job and want to finish their education, but other students may also find taking online classes to be more suited to their lifestyle as well.

Hybrid. For students that want to enjoy the best of both worlds, a hybrid program that includes both distance learning courses as well as traditional on campus classes may be the best fit. By incorporating a few online classes into your course schedule, many students find that they have more flexibility with completing their coursework and are able to better manage their workload.

Determine How You Want Professors to Interact with Students

Another factor to consider when selecting a college is how you want to interact with professors during your college experience. Do you want to form a face-to-face connection with all of your professors or would you be more comfortable asking questions via email or phone?

Smaller colleges will typically also have smaller class sizes, which gives students more access to their professors. In contrast, larger class sizes may make it more difficult for you to spend a lot of time with your professor outside of the lecture getting your questions answered, although they are still available to answer questions and discuss concepts from the class with students during their office hours.

Plan a Tour of Several Colleges/Universities

After you've made a list of a couple of colleges that you like, do some research online to see if they offer a degree program in your area of interest and the type of learning environment you want to determine whether they would be a good fit for you. At this point, you should try to narrow down your selection of colleges to just those you think will be the best fit for you and then make an appointment for a campus tour. It can also help to meet with an admissions advisor when you visit the college. Talking with an advisor can help during the admissions process and could give you an edge when they make their decision on which students to accept into their program. Meeting with an admissions advisor is particularly important if you plan to attend a college with strict acceptance criteria.

Make Your Decision

After you have toured your favorite colleges, it's time to fill out your applications and send them in for evaluation. Make sure to keep track of all deadlines on your applications so that you can get them in early if possible. Once you have put in your applications, you will receive letters from each college that will tell you whether you have been accepted, put on their waiting list or rejected. After you receive your acceptance letters, select your favorite college from your list and get ready to start your college experience!

Fill out the form on this page to begin your college search and let us know if you have any questions!

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