Starting your college search can feel like some weird reality TV show… Our contestant begins this challenge buried in the Pit of Pre-College Postcards. After escaping that, they must navigate the Maze of Many Choices while being chased by caffeinated college admissions representatives. To advance into the next round, they need to pick 10 potential universities that best fit their needs. The timer starts… NOW!
Take heart—the path may look confusing right now, but lots of people successfully find their way through every year. And with our help, you’ll make it through, too.
College search experts point to four big topics that help you balance and consider the different kinds of higher education experiences available. Here’s what they say.
Public versus private
Public universities get much of their funding directly from the government in their states, so they primarily serve people in those states. If you live in the same state, you get the benefit thanks to tax money and other state funding. But if you live in one state and want to attend a public university in another state, brace yourself to pay extra “out-of-state costs.”
Private universities stand on their own financially, so they typically charge higher tuition rates to pay for everything. Private schools sometimes offer more specialized degree programs, cozier campuses, and smaller class sizes.
Think about size
How big is a “big campus”? And is a “small campus” really small?
Really, the whole comes down to you and your experience. If you grew up in a town of 34,000 people, then a university campus that’s the size of your entire hometown but crammed into a smaller space will likely feel large.
Then again, if you come from a major city, that same place with those same people could feel just like home. Either way, it just depends on you.
Look at opportunities
Sure, college is about learning and studying, but it’s also about you growing as a person and expanding your understanding of the world. That can happen in the classroom through your coursework, on the lawn with friends, in the library working on a group project, or at the stadium while cheering on the home team.
When comparing schools, think about . Explore the websites of your prospective schools to see if they offer the things you want, whether it’s study abroad opportunities, lots of student orgs and Greek life, intramural sports, or the chance to do research and take internships.
Find your fit
No tip sheet or counselor (or even parent) can tell you why you want to go to college or what you want to get out of it. That’s all up to you. It’s part of your psyche.
Whether you want a future career or a bunch of best friends, a place to perform or a platform for changing the world, you can find all of that and more on a college campus. Finding the best campus for you takes time and effort, so dive in, keep looking, and think big. You’ve got this.
For more starting points and some mileposts to mark on your calendar, download a free copy of our “Ultimate College Decision Timeline.” It’ll keep you on track!