My high school is gearing up to administer the SAT so things have been a pretty hectic mess of tests, scheduling and of course, writing down those four options for where your SAT scores will be sent for free. About a month ago I experienced a spur of the moment desire to begin my epic search for a college. I got a little journal, took some aptitude tests, talked costs with my parents, browsed the twenty college pamphlets I requested and was able to narrow down some things I was looking for in a college. Where you decide to go to college is a pretty big deal. Not only will you be spending thousands upon thousands of dollars to attend, but whatever college you choose will prepare you for the career that you may pursue for the rest of your life, and even more importantly than that, your college years open you up to vital years of real and honest life experience. So when looking for colleges its important you take the task seriously, or else you may end up wasting away at a college where everyone is vegan and the closest Target is three hours away. Because when searching for a college, there is a lot to consider.
My biggest issue is cost. I have a brother who is in college and a family that isn't made of money, so I'm not looking to spend and obscene amount of cash for my education. So the first thing I do when I get to a college's website is look at the estimated cost. Every school's website should have a page where it will tell you the cost per semester, and since there are a bunch of big college terms like, 'on campus housing' involved I had to get my Mom to come and translate for me the first time. I have a page for every school I research, and at the very top of the page, highlighted and underlined is cost.
The major I want to pursue, elementary education, is a fairly common major and so most schools will be able to offer some sort of program that will allow me, later in life, to be an elementary school teacher. But as you all probably know, its very common for people to switch their majors after the first few years of attending college, so rather than only look to see that a college has your very specific dream major, cruise through the other options they have. If the only major that interests you is the one that's the top of your list, maybe try a different college that has more major options that catch your eye. Along with that, most school's websites have descriptions of the classes you take for your specific major and some goals of the program. Read those! Course descriptions will help you get a better understanding of what type of classroom experience you're going to have and if it will be something that will suit you.
You should take your time to delve a bit deeper into the school's atmosphere. Take a virtual tour if you can't get out there in person, look through clubs and activities, read about the surrounding town and maybe the history of what could be your future college. Every college has a mission statement and goals for their students, staff and the community around them. One school I looked at was very committed to diversity, exploring other cultures and staying connected with the community. Another school was very focused on the environment and offered opportunities to connect with nature. While you'll never really know what the atmosphere of the school is like until you actually go there, reading up on what they publicly uphold and emphasize will start to give you an idea of what life there will be like.
Dive deeper than just cost and don't get hung up on majors. One of the pamphlets I requested suggested reading the school newspaper or blog to get a look at daily life on campus. If you know someone that goes to the school you're looking at, talk to them about their experience and what they enjoyed or didn't enjoy.
Some practical advice for those who are also searching for a dream school is to keep a journal. Write down information about each school, and make note of a few things that matter to you. For me, I want a school that won't keep me in debt for years to come, is located in a smaller town (but not three hours away from Target), will give me opportunities to grow and learn inside and outside the classroom and has a vibe that upholds independence, community, and creativity. For you, you may want a school that will guarantee you'll be prepared for your job, or that has the best food in the state, or is located in the middle of the woods so that you can go camping every weekend.
Searching for a college can be stressful and scary, since a lot of times adults freak us all out with heavy and serious talk of the future. And yeah, it is scary. You're embarking on a journey that is going to impact your life for many, many years. But rather than look at it as something to dread and fear, look at it in a positive light. You, yes you, are being granted the opportunity to take control of your life and choose to go to a college that will allow you to be the person you've always wanted to be. I think that's a pretty lucky thing to be able to do.
Is anyone else embarking on the journey of college searching? How's it going for you? If you've already embarked on this journey, and successfully completed it, we'd all love to know any advice you have for those of us who are going through it for the first time.
Thanks for stopping by, and I'll see you next Friday!
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