Choosing the Right College

Let’s be straightforward – if you’re applying to college, senior fall will be stressful. As a high school student at an independent school in New Jersey, applying to college was especially hectic for me, considering I had spent the summer procrastinating. When I finally had the willpower to stop watching Desperate Housewives reruns, however, I had to face the issue before me: my future.

The first thing to consider was the cost. Coming from a middle-class family, this factored greatly into my choice of colleges. Many schools, however, offer excellent financial aid. Not all schools do, but if it’s a concern, college applicants should never hesitate to apply for it. Additionally, there are countless merit and need-based scholarship applications out there. Collegeprowler is a great source for those.

The other things to consider include the usual checklist-type factors: size, distance, available majors, and social scene. Before I even thought about which colleges I should add to my list, I asked myself these questions: Do I want to attend a large or small school? How far am I willing to travel from home? What will my major be? Do I want to be part of a diverse community or does it not matter? Would I mind if the student body was homogenous?

Large schools have the advantage of meeting new and different people, but you may have difficulty getting the attention of your professors. Small schools often have easier accessibility to professors, but fewer types of people represented.

Distance-wise, most of the schools I applied to are located on the east coast. If you want to be able to visit home, say, every week or at least once a month, choose a university close by, probably no more than one state away. You want to remember your college days while you were in school, not the car! If distance isn’t an issue and you don’t mind being away for months at a time, then bon voyage! The world is your oyster. College life will definitely knock out the homesickness.

Majors are trickier. I started out thinking I would study environmental science, but then hopped to marketing, and finally decided on nursing. Being undecided, however, is completely fine. All liberal arts colleges offer the flexibility of switching majors, and even remaining undecided for a year or two. If you’re not ready to pick what you want to study, attending a liberal arts college is your best bet.

Both size and location are connected to the social scene of a school. Schools in New York City, DC, Boston and Philadelphia are usually more upbeat and diverse, while more isolated colleges such as Cornell, Vassar, and Bucknell leave students with little to do outside of school. Nevertheless, some schools do offer the best of both worlds, and wherever you go, you will always find people you enjoy being around.

Don’t be dismayed if you’re not admitted to every school to which you applied! The number of applicants each year increases and competition is tough. Do, however, have a good amount of safety schools on your list in addition to a few reaches. Regardless of where you end up, college will guaranteed be an unforgettable experience.

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