It’s just past the time that high school seniors have decided on their college, and juniors are looking ahead to applications. It’s nice being able to talk to someone who’s gone through the same process that many juniors will go through. There’s much to think about: the SAT, the ACT, good grades, finding a school that fits your interests, essays, applications, visits, and more.
We have the perspective of two high schoolers: Brooke who has been through the application and acceptance process, and Claire, who is just beginning it.
Brooke: Finding the right college is really difficult. My decision came down to two schools, and a lot of different things factored into my final choice. You have to consider location, class difficulty,cost, the “feel” of the school and it’s social aspects, and a ton of other stuff. With the two schools I had, one was much more prestigious but a lot more costly, and the other one had given me scholarship money, but wasn’t particularly well-known.
I had to weigh my options: would the more abundant opportunities at the one school outweigh its cost? Would I be happy in the towns the schools were in? Did I feel welcome and included by current and other prospective students? You may never have that moment where you just know, like a lot of people talk about. You have to trust you’ll make the right decison for you.
Claire: Looking ahead, college is overwhelming. There’s schools that are on my list, but there’s also the cost and scholarship oppertunities to consider. It’s difficult to find a school that you really like, but then realize that it’s out of your price range. But perhaps I’m getting a little ahead of myself, since I haven’t even tried to get any scholarships yet. Perhaps when I’m accepted into schools, I’ll be able to get some scholarships to help pay for them.
Right now I’m trying to focus on finding schools that fit my interests (engineering and science), and have particularlly good programs in these areas. I have a list, and over the summer the plan is to go and visit a few of these colleges to see if it will actually be the right fit for me.
One of my top choices is in California. I’ve been gathering information on this college for years, and it seems like a great fit for me. But until I actually visit the campus and talk to some of the students who attend the college, I wouldn’t want to make a committment. I’m trying to keep my options open at this point, while considering practical factors.
Brooke: You never really know until you visit. And sometimes, even when you do visit, you still don’t know. The best thing to do is spend time at both the school and the surrounding area. I reccommend spending the night at the college you’re considering and looking aroung the town or city for fun things to do. If you don’t end up liking the school as much as you thought, but you do like the town maybe you could look at other schools in the area or consider that college for graduate school instead.
If you like the school but not the town, you’ll have decide whether you would be happy enough at the school that the town wouldn’t bother you, or look for a similar school in a better area. Another option is considering proximity to home, study abroad, and study away. If you’re worried about being bored or unhappy at school, you may want to go home more often. I’m definitely not
advocating for going home all the time. It’s important to detatch and mature on your own at college. But it may be something to think about in the sense that you’d be happier being closer to home, maybe even just to know that it’s there.
Study abroad can be a really good opportunity to continue studying in a completely different invronment, but sometime it can be really daunting to think about. Study away is something a lot of colleges offer, where you can live and study at a different school in the U.S., sometimes even on an opposite coast. It’s a good idea to look into all these things when considering colleges.