How Are You Going To Pick a College?

More than 1 million students apply to schools through common app each year.

More than 1 million students apply to schools through common app each year.

It’s that time of the year! Christmas lights are being strung, Mariah Carey is hitting the charts again, and the elf on the shelf is stalking your home. Unfortunately, for those of you who wish to go to college, it is also time to actually apply to schools.

By now, most seniors must know that filling out college applications can be a vigorous and tiresome process. From letters of recommendation to 500-word essays, everything has the potential to be draining, but perhaps the most important of the college admissions process is picking your schools. Admissions can cost a fortune and eliminating schools can save you a whole bunch of money. Touring prospective schools can help you do that, but only if you know what you are looking for.

When looking at schools, it can be difficult to find unique things about colleges, especially if you have already narrowed your lineup down to a few schools. When my brother and I went on tours we remedied this problem by creating a list of factors to consider, and, with the help of that list, we were able to narrow nine potential colleges down to five, which may not seem like a big difference but it has made the process so much easier.

There are a few things that you have to consider before anything else: selectiveness and price. College is expensive and selective schools usually have higher prices than other schools. Knowing this, you should make sure that you can find a good school that aligns with your selective preference and falls in your price range.

The size of prospective schools is a helpful factor to consider because school size will affect the atmosphere. A smaller school may feel more like a high school, whereas larger schools will have a wider community, with most of the people being students you will never meet.

Class size and student to teacher ratios may vary as well, meaning you could attend a school with more lectures or a school with smaller, more intimate classes. Finding the right school size will likely affect your social life at whatever school you attend.

Similarly, college locations will shape your experience. If you can’t stand humidity or rain you might want to stay away from an east coast school. Weather has been proven to greatly affect your mood and constantly being upset by the weather may affect your performance at prospective schools.

The geography surrounding the school will also determine available activities. For example, skiers and bikers may want to search for schools with mountains and colder weather, while surfers or hunters would want to seek schools near the ocean or forests.

Some schools may even offer special programs created around the geography and access to facilities. Special programs are very important things to consider. If you want to travel abroad you may want to find a school with unique abroad programs, or, if you are interested in an obscure sport, looking at places that offer that sport would be helpful.

Now let’s say that you found the perfect school for your emotional needs. It is the perfect size, It is surrounded by the perfect things, and it offers everything you are interested in. However, only 45 percent of enrolled students graduate and it costs twice as much as you planned to pay. If you choose to go to that school you risk dropping out and paying more than you have budgeted. It is at this point that you would want to consider your wants compared to your resources. What are you willing to do to go to the school you like? Will you take out loans? Work a full-time job? These are important things to consider.

Once you know what you want from a school, your decision will be made much easier, and if you keep all of these factors in mind, you can find a college that is not only good for you but one that is affordable and quality. With that, go do your research and remember to turn in your applications!