Junior year of high school. That’s when it all begins. The questions start to flood in.
“Start looking at schools yet?”
“Got any plans for after high school?”
“What are you looking to do?”
This was one of the hardest things for me. How do you decide when you don’t know what you want to do??
First though, it’s important to realize this:
You don’t have to know right now.
Repeat after me: I’m not sure, and that’s okay.
I know, it might sound crazy, but I promise, you’ll be okay. It’s insane that we think we have to know what we want to do with our life at 16 or 17.
So please don’t think you have to figure it all out now. At the beginning of junior year, you have over a year and a half to consider schools and what you may want to do.
Plus, there are so many options.
Things change, you will change. It will all be all right.
If you don’t know where to start, or just want to make sure you’re on the right track, here is the list of factors I considered when looking at colleges:
This can be hard when you haven’t completely decided on a major. The best way to look at this is to look for schools that offer programs in at least 2-3 of your interests and possible majors/minors.
If you really don’t have any idea, think about things you do when you should be doing something else.
The amount of money you will make should come second, unless that’s a top priority for you.
For me, it’s happiness above all else. It’s important to do things for YOU and not for anyone else.
Talk with family members or people at school to see which schools have the best programs in the areas you might be interested in pursuing.
How close do you want to be to home?
Some people would rather stay close, while others are looking to go cross-country. It’s all up to you.
My college radius was about 4 hours, that way home was at most a long drive or train ride away, but I could still come home quickly should there be an event or emergency.
If you’re really not looking to leave, some universities even have full-time online programs. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with.
If you are looking to save money, living at home, close to your college, may also be an option. That way you won’t have to pay for room and board.
Personal, I think living in campus will provide the best college experience. But, remember to come home every once in a while and see the people who care about you.
This is usually one of the biggest factors for prospective students. The cost of college has risen faster than the value of the dollar in the past few decades.
Community colleges are a great affordable way to get a jump-start on a degree. You can even take some community college classes while you’re still in high school, which is what I did. This can help you save money and time and help enhance your application for a job or secondary school.
related post: How to Ace your online class
If you’re looking for a 4 year school, there are a ton of great schools that are very affordable.
State schools are usually the best way to go with value in mind. In New York, at least, the State University of New York (SUNY) system is great and helps to give tons of kids a great education at a lower cost.
Even if you go out-of-state, that state’s schools will be considerably lower than private schools. However, if you are worried about cost, it’s important not to rule private schools out completely.
If there is a school you are really interested in going to, it’s worth applying. You never know, scholarships and other financial aid may make a private school a viable option.
Application and Application Requirements
This is important near the end of the college search, when it’s time to decide which colleges are your top picks. Before applying to any school, it’s important to search their information to see what is required of applicants.
For example, if you’re applying for art, it’s important to know whether you will need to submit a portfolio or not, and if you do, then how?
The application itself is also important to consider. Many schools across the country use the Common Application, meaning you only need to fill out one application to apply to any school in the program. You can apply online and it’s very straightforward.
Also, investigate specific requirements of some college applications. One school I applied to used the Common App, but you could only submit one of 5 essay options they accepted, instead of all 6 options available on the Common App.
It would have been awful to write a whole college essay only to realize I couldn’t use it.
If a college doesn’t use the Common App, make sure you know how to send the application, what standardized test scores you need to submit, and whether you need things like letters of recommendation. Also, pay attention to the date it’s due.
Regardless of what application a college uses, it is more than likely going to have an application fee. This can help you weed out colleges you’re not really committed to. After all, applying to 5 colleges usually costs at least $250. Take note of each schools fee and see if you really want to apply there.
Campus Size and Atmosphere
No matter how much money you get from a college, what sport you’re looking to play, or any other specific area of a school you’re interested in, it’s really important to make sure that you like the campus.
If you hate your dorm, complexes, and halls, it doesn’t matter if you’re going there for free. For me, there’s no point in going somewhere that makes you miserable for the next 4 years. Make sure where you’re going fits your taste.
If you like clubs, look at the clubs. Maybe you don’t want to play sports, but you want your school to have a D1 school to watch. If you want a big school, or small school, or want to play a sport, or want to be able to walk around campus rather than ride, then find a school that has that.
College should be an enjoyable experience.
This is one of my biggest tips: To make sure you’re getting what you want, visit the school. Sometimes, it can be the difference between two schools you were really stuck between.
Example: See My Post BOSTON COLLEGE & BOSTON UNIVERSITY
College is a big deal, but it should also be fun. It doesn’t have to be so stressful.
If you break down each part piece by piece, you’ll be able to figure it out, and keep your head.
Remember, the most important part of the process is YOU. Listen to yourself, and breathe. Nothing is set in stone.
You are amazing! Good luck on your search!