What do you want to be when you grow up? Regardless if you’re just graduating high school or you did so 20 years ago, that phrase makes everyone cringe and roll their eyes. It’s still a good question though. Nearly every option after high school is going to involve some type of education and training. It won’t matter if you want to be a doctor or a mechanic, there will be more school in your future.
As a senior or especially as a junior, this is the perfect time to figure out what you want to do, where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. No university, community college or trade school is going to be a perfect fit, but planning ahead will help you pick one that meets your needs and perhaps even exceeds your expectations.
Students and parents need to consider the individual educational record, abilities, and personal interests to help pick out a school. Goals both short-term and long-term need to be considered. Picking out a course of study will directly affect how long students stay in school, where they’ll go afterward and how much they’ll make. The wrong decisions at this step in the career planning process will waste thousands of dollars and years of study.
If meeting tuition isn’t the primary concern, then students and parents can pick a school and major based on just the numbers. If the grades are there and pre-med is the choice, then there is no reason not to pick out a school like Johns Hopkins or Mount Sinai. If financial help is going to be required, then looking for a school based on available scholarships or other financial aid may be the driving factor. Either way, parents and students are going to need a checklist
College Selection Tips
When the time comes, it’s important to plan ahead and prepare for your college selection as it will have a large impact on the rest of your adult life. Here are our tips on how to plan ahead and choose the school that will best suit your need.
- When looking at potential colleges, make sure the school has a good academic program for your major. A school such a MIT may be a fine place to attend college for an engineer, but may not be the best choice for student looking to study psychology. Each school will have programs they are stronger in, and programs they are weaker in. Make sure to take this into consideration when making your final decision.
- Determine whether living close to home or going away to school are important to you. If geographic location is important, make that determination early on so you know where to begin your search.
- Never make your final college selection without visiting at least your top two or three choices. No matter how well you think you know a college or university, you can learn a lot (good or bad) by spending a few hours on campus, including whether or not the college feels like a good “fit” for you. Having family members accompany you on college visits is a great idea because it gives you extra “eyes and ears” and people with whom you can discuss your impressions.
- A college is not necessarily right for you because its name is familiar. That might seem pretty obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many students equate educational quality with name recognition.
- Investigate at least three or four colleges you know little or nothing about but offer the field(s) of study of interest to you, are appropriately selective for a students with your grades and SAT or ACT scores, and are located in geographic areas attractive to you. You have nothing to lose and you might make a great discovery. A little research and an open mind can greatly increase the odds that you make a good college choice.
- There are very few worse reasons to select a college than because your friends are going there. Choosing a college because your girlfriend or boyfriend is headed there is one of them. In fact, if there is a worse reason to choose a college, it escapes us.
- Do not rule out colleges early because of cost. Many colleges offer scholarships, financial aid, and tuition installment plans that make them far more affordable than they may first appear. You can’t/won’t know how much it will cost to attend a college until the very end of the process.
- Deadlines, whether for college applications, SAT or ACT registration, financial aid, scholarships, campus housing, etc. are not suggestions. Miss a deadline and you may find yourself in deep you-know-what. Write down on a calendar and adhere strictly to all deadlines.
- Don’t be afraid to apply to a few “reach schools”. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results if you are not entirely unrealistic. Then, apply to at least three colleges you like which are highly likely to admit you. Remember, choose these three colleges very carefully as they are the places where you are mostly likely to wind up. Finally, choose at least two “safety” colleges. Colleges to which you are virtually certain you will be admitted. Choosing “safety” schools they don’t really like is a mistake many students make. If you take the time to choose safety schools you would be happy to attend, you’ll eliminate all the anxiety some students experience in the college application and admissions process.
- When it is time to make your final choice, discuss your options with your family, your counselor (if you have one), and others who know you well and whose judgment you value. If you have a tough time choosing among two or more colleges or universities it is probably because you have done a good job putting together your list and you will be happy at whichever institution you choose. Once you make your choice, don’t agonize over it. If you have followed these rules there is an excellent chance your final college choice will be a good one.