I promise you, if someone told me back in the day (meaning, like, two years ago in high school) that I would be attending the university I attend now, I would’ve definitely said, “Uh where’s that?” Now, I wouldn’t want to attend anywhere else. College is an amazing opportunity to focus your energies and dedicate yourself to the subject matter of your choice. It’s also a place to – please excuse the cliché – blossom. You’ll find out a million things about yourself, both big and small.
So although choosing the right university for yourself is not a permanent decision (because, hey, transferring isn’t a crime), here are some methods to employ while shuffling through your acceptance letters to ensure you find a good fit for yourself.
Visit the university! I cannot emphasize this enough. To be honest, my university was not at the top of my list until I visited the campus. I got to see the students in action, as they rushed around to classes and various events. I got to walk around to feel out whether I could see myself transitioning smoothly in that environment. Visit more than once; you’ll never really know a campus until you attend, but you can certainly get a good sense of the student body and the general feel of the university.
Consider your interests. Ultimately, you’re attending university for an education. Yes, you’ll here this about a million times from a million different adults as you’re making your way through college. Yes, it’s super annoying to hear. But you have to factor education in as you’re choosing your college (who would’ve thought, huh?). Which university on your list has the strongest program for your major? Which one has more opportunities for you to grow in your particular field of interest?
Check out social media. I say this with caution because many of my peers and I would recommend our university to any college-bound student. That being said, our social media pages don’t always reflect that. Social media provides a place for people to vent and express their grievances to an audience. My university community vents all the time about the various facets of our university. This doesn’t necessarily give you an accurate portrait of our experience here, but it can give you an idea of some of the issues you might come across as you matriculate.
Consider financial aid. When you were applying, I’m sure you heard counselors, teachers, peers, and parents say, “Don’t worry about the money now, because you never know- you could get a scholarship!” Well, by now, you probably have a good idea of what scholarships and financial aid is available to you for each individual school. Now is the time to factor in your financial situation. How much dept are you willing to accumulate? Which school is offering you a better deal?
Talk to current students! If you can access a student on campus and shadow them or stay overnight (check out the university’s accepted students programs), do so! Even simply having their contact information to ask any questions you might have will be beneficial. The student will likely give you their honest opinion about the university and potentially give you some pointers in navigating social and academic life. Try to find someone that has the same major or concentration as you and is the same gender. This will help give you a better sense of what your specific experience might be like at the university.
Consider what matters to you. List what factors matter most to you at a school, whether that be location, gender ratio, teacher ratio, size, extra-curricular activities, etc. Obviously, putting “partying” at the top of your list is not necessarily a fantastic way to find a school that meets your educational needs. But if there’s a sport or club that you’re determined to participate in, factor that in. If you’re interested in attending a historically black college, consider that as well. Remember why you applied to these universities in the first place and sort out what is a priority for you.
[Lead image via Thinglass/Shutterstock]