Grades, SATs, essays, class rank, recommendations - and that is just for the applications. For seniors, deciding which colleges to apply to, (or if they will apply at all), this is a long and tedious process. There are so many choices and factors to consider when trying to find a school that will match your career goals, interests, personality, and budget. It can seem so confusing and overwhelming at times that you wish you were a freshman again - well, okay, maybe it's not THAT bad. But college-bound seniors don't despair because here are a few things to consider that will make the college selection process as painless as possible.
The programs a school offers is a major factor. You should look at a college that is strong in the program you want to major in, not necessarily a prestigious, well-known school. There are many small, lesser-known schools which excel in certain majors, but don't have a major price tag. For those students who haven't decided what their future will be yet, a liberal arts program is probably best for you. Remember, you can always go as an undeclared major, then decide later. Some of you creative types also have another choice, a conservatory program at a college or specialized school. In a conservatory program all of your classes are related to your major, and you spend a great deal of time in a studio or theater actually creating, rehearsing, or performing.
As someone once said, "Location is everything." This phrase is especially true regarding college. Do you want to be close to home or would you love to experience a new environment? The climate is also something to consider. Seasonal temperature, population, and social opportunities are also very important.
The cost of college has risen dramatically in the past few years but don't let this dictate which schools you should look at. Financial aid, scholarships, and student loans make it possible for most people to afford college.
The size of a school can have a big impact on how well you do there. Larger schools are usually better for people who are motivated, outgoing, open-minded, and who like meeting all different kinds of people. Smaller colleges are usually more suited to people who like knowing everyone, and would rather be a big fish in a small pond, because with fewer people, they can stand out more.
Activities and clubs can be crucial to your college experience because making friends when you arrive eases the process of adjusting to college life, and you may also find a sport or activity that you love.
Above all, try to enjoy your senior year because the next few months will be busy ones, filled with deadlines, interviews, tours, and some of the biggest decisions you ever have to make. But, before we know it, it will be April 15, and most will know our destiny - or fate, and the application nightmare will be a distant memory as you await graduation. f
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.