Asking an eighteen year-old to make a decision that affects practically their entire life from that point forward may seem a little daunting—at least, that’s how I saw my college selection process.
The college process was haunting to me in high school; it was precipice that loomed some what in the future, where one wrong step could essentially ruin my professional career. However, I was misguided. While I’m not saying that the college selection process isn’t stressful, it’s something not worth ruining your final years at high school over.
With over 20.3 million students in the United States seeking high education, it’s easy to get caught up in other people’s prerogatives. When looking at colleges, it’s going to be worth it, in the long run, to establish your own personal plan and process.
The first step is to have a preferred setting in mind. Growing up and living around one of the most metropolitan cities in the world—New York City—acclimated me to high paced environments and constant. Moving to central DC was an easy and obvious choice for me. Others prefer a more “collegiate” atmosphere: enclosed, definite campuses in quieter areas with a less dense population than “city schools”. Not all universities fit these specific parameters, as most universities are unique combinations of the two. It’s best to visit the universities themselves, so you can experience the atmosphere of the University.
After further researching and visiting a list of universities that I thought would be a good geographical fit for me, I looked at specific programs for my prospective major or minor. I’m currently a major in journalism and mass communications with a minor in creative writing, so I saw it best to choose universities that had a strong program that would cater to my educational needs. This does not necessarily mean I paid close attention to ranking. For me, ranking was another quantifier that students used to compare their personal success to one another. The only person I need to compare my personal success is to myself; I found discussions of college ranks by various magazine and ranking institutions frivolous. Though, for others, ranking in programs such as Pre-Med or Law is essential when looking at future graduate programs. The importance of these two characteristics are circumstantial, but for me the quality of my specific program education was much more important than the quantity of applicants based on rank.
My most important piece of advice is to forget what any one else says and trust your personal judgment while never being afraid to ask questions or for help. Researching a university isn’t enough to truly know if it’s the college for you, but it’s a beginning. Visit many different kinds of schools and keep your mind and curiosity open. Remembering that this is a place you’re going to be living in, making life long friends and having once in a lifetime experiences is essential, and at the end of the day, your happiness will be the most important life tool.