Let’s face it: some decisions are hard to make. Deciding where you will attend college is no exception. Many students (and parents) place so much pressure on this one decision. Will it determine the rest of your life? Yes and no. It will play some general role in the path your life will take, but ultimately, the decisions you make while you are in college will determine “the rest of life”. Still, many students are feeling an enormous amount of pressure to make the “right” decision. I have seen them angst, cry and talk themselves in circles, but ultimately, I strive to remind my students to think about what is important.
Over the next few days, we will examine some of the questions that are important to consider as you make your final college decision. So, if you are one of the students currently struggling to determine the fate of your existence by May 1st, look through these questions in order to put that decision into perspective.
Today we will begin with academics. The main question you should consider when thinking about the academic offerings of a college is:
Which college will help me successful academically? Hopefully as you have built your college list and sent out your college applications, you have looked into the academic offerings of the colleges you have been admitted to. In order to determine if a college would help you be “successful,” you first need to define what success will mean for you. Is it completing a certain major? Getting good grades (or better grades than high school)? Or is it just figuring out what you want to do with the rest of your life? Here are some points to ponder as you think about your definition of academic success:
- If you are interested in a specific major, make sure you thoroughly review the website of that particular department. Read the faculty bios. What are they researching? Do any of them look interesting to you or make you excited to take their classes? Does the department have a particular focus within the discipline you are interested in?
- If you don’t know what you want to major in, do some research on how the college will help you select a major. Will you have an academic advisor who will meet with you to discuss your interests and options? How available will that person be? Will the career center help you explore different career options? Does the general curriculum allow you to take a variety of courses in multiple disciplines during your first year so you can nail down what academic subjects interest you?
- Are there specific academic options you need to see to meet your goals? For example are you looking to do research in college? Are research opportunities available to undergraduates, or are they mainly given to graduate students? Will you be able to write a thesis or do an independent study? Is there advising available for pre-professional programs (such as medical school applications, etc.)
- Look at the academic resources. Do you struggle with math, but are thinking of attending a college that requires you to complete a certain number of math courses? Do you often get extra help from your parents when writing an essay? If so, you may want to look into the academic resources at the colleges you are choosing between. Do they provide tutoring? Is it free? How often can you go? What hours are the resource centers open? What trying do the students working there receive?
- Reach out to a professor. Perhaps the best way to learn more about the academic side of a college is to reach out to a professor. While many students find it intimidating to contact faculty, it can be a very helpful way to gain knowledge of how helpful the faculty are at a particular school.
Researching the academic side of each college you are considering can hopefully help you answer the question of which college will help you be academically successful. Tomorrow, we will look at the financial aspects of the final college decision.