This week we are taking a look at important questions students need to ask themselves as they are making their final decision on where they will attend college. We first explored the academic questions. Yesterday, we looked the that financial aspects of this decision. Today we will discuss a more comprehensive concern: the question of “fit”.
Which college is a better “fit”? You do need to feel comfortable where you attend college, but many students hold onto this fantasy of finding the “perfect fit”. They look for the bells and whistles, something that signals their head “this is my college”. Reality is that either this won’t happen for many students, or it happened because (possibly) someone you met on campus was nice to you. When looking at your final colleges, it is important to look beyond what you think of as a true “fit”. Make sure you are focusing on aspects of the college that will still be there when you attend (i.e. the nice person will probably move on). Make sure you are looking at concrete aspects of the college, not just a one time event or the overall feel. Take a moment to consider the following:
- What events happen yearly? Your ears may have perked up on the tour when the tour guide talked about a certain band or an exciting speaker who came to campus, but is this something that will happen every year? What events are traditions? How many students attend these events? Also consider if the campus traditions are positive or are they not held in high regard (i.e. the administration hates them and is trying to shut them down). The yearly, more traditional events, may a be good indication of how the college builds spirit and what is important to the overall community.
- Where will you feel at “home” at the college? For some students, this is easy. For others it can be a challenge and finding a group where you truly feel like you belong may not happen until you attend the college. It is still important to explore this area while you are still trying to make your final decision. What types of clubs and organizations are offered? Is there a specific themed residence hall where you would find students with similar interest? Are there opportunities for you to continue a particular extracurricular interest? Is there something in the surrounding area that will help feel like a part of the community?
- Are you too focused on the bells and whistles? So many colleges are trying to emphasize amenities (“We have room service and valet parking”), but are these things really going to help you be successful in college? Are they going to help you explore your intellectual interest or develop the skills you need to hold down a job? It is better to focus on the overall philosophy of the college. Is the college striving to teach “global citizens” or “critical thinkers”? If so, how have they integrated that mission into the curriculum and community? How does the mission of the college correspond with your goals for your future?
- Have I explored every aspect of the colleges that I am trying to choose between? The bottom line is that this is the time to explore every aspect of the colleges you are considering. Attend an admitted student event (if possible). Ask the admissions office to connect you with current students. Your parents can ask to speak with current parents. Email professors, contact coaches or student organization advisors. ASK ALL OF YOUR QUESTIONS. This is not the time to be shy or feel the like you are being a nuisance. You need to collect all of the necessary information in to order to make an informed decision.
Making the final decision on where you will attend college is important and stressful. However, if you do your research, you can walk away from this decision knowing you made the right one.