It may seems unfair to ask high school students to define what they’re looking for in a college when they may not have any idea of what to expect. CollegeWise, the nation’s largest college admissions counseling company, suggests discussing the answers to these ten questions as a good starting point to get your teen focused on what they want from a college experience.
- Why do you want to go to college?
It’s good to consider why you’re doing all this, and your answer to this question can impact your college search. If you answer, “Because I want to be a journalist,” it makes sense to look at schools that offer a journalism major. If it’s, “Because I’ve lived in the same community my entire life and want to experience something different,” you’ll want to pay attention to where the schools are located and the diversity of their student populations.
- Do you think you’re ready to go to college?
There’s no shame in feeling nervous, academically unprepared, or just unsure of yourself when it comes to college. Be honest about it with yourself and your parents. Apply to at least a few colleges anyway. You apply in the fall of your senior year, but you don’t actually decide where—or if—you’re going to go to college until the end of your senior year. If you’re still not ready to go then, you could consider other options; but a lot can change in those six to eight months. Refusing to even apply just takes options off the table that are hard to get back later.
- How have you done your best learning?
The right colleges should give you lots of opportunities to love what you’re learning and how you’re learning it. So, think about the times in high school where you were at your intellectual best. Not just the times when you got the highest grades, but when you were excited about what you were learning. Was it a particular subject? Was it because the teacher was great? Was it because it involved projects, competition with other students or a lot of class discussions? Or maybe it was something that didn’t even happen in school, but you just took the time to learn it on your own? Your answers to this question can tell you a lot about what you might like to study, whether or not it’s important that you like the teacher, and how much academic freedom you’ll want to take classes you want to take.
- What would you like to learn more about?
“What do you want to major in?” is a big question a lot of students aren’t yet ready to answer. “What would you like to learn more about?” is less committal. It lets you consider how much you like math without necessarily deciding that you’ll major in math yet. College is school, after all. It’s important to consider the learning part of your future four years.
- How hard do want to work academically?
Some schools are a lot more demanding than others, so it’s best to examine how much of a workload you are willing to carry. When researching schools, pay attention to what the students say about their experiences. Students at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, University of Chicago and Middlebury will bring up how much they study. It’s like a badge of honor. Swarthmore College even prints T-shirts that read, “Anywhere else it would have been an A…really.” That’s a clue.
- Do you have any idea what you want to do with your life?
Don’t think it’s a problem if you can’t yet answer this question, but if you already have a future career in mind, it should probably be a key criterion to consider when picking colleges. Do a little career research and find out where people successful in the field went to college and what they studied. You might be surprised by what you find. For example, Google and Apple employ more graduates from San Jose State than they do from Berkeley, UCLA or MIT.
- What would you like to do on a typical Tuesday night in college? What about on a typical Saturday night?
We think this is a fun question because the answer draws out everything from the types of students you want to be around to where the campus is located to what you want to major in. You’re only in class for part of the day at most. The rest of the time, you’re living your life on (or off) campus with your fellow students. Think about what you’d like to be doing in your free time and look for where that will be possible.
- Do you want to go to college in a place that’s different or similar to where you live now?
This one hits on everything from your city and state, to the size of your town, to the type of people in your community. College can be a four-year opportunity to live in a place very different from where you live now. But that’s not the right opportunity for everyone. It’s good to consider just how much change you want to take on when you go to college.
- Do you want to be with students who are like you or different from you?
Differences can come in lots of forms, like ethnicity, sexual orientation, where people are from, their religious beliefs (or lack of them), their politics, whether or not they drink or use drugs, etc. Some colleges are a lot more diverse than others, and it’s a good idea to consider whether or not you want to be with people who may be very different from you.
- What’s your family’s college budget?
Discuss finances with your parents. You can’t do a responsible college search without knowing your family’s financial limits and how much they can afford to help send you to college. Don’t automatically eliminate any college that’s over your family’s budget. You won’t know the amount of any potential financial aid package until you are actually admitted. You can estimate it, but the package could later be in influenced by other factors, like your strength as an applicant. It is not a good idea to apply to a long list of schools your family couldn’t possibly afford, but don’t cross every school off your list that exceeds your family’s budget, either.
Provided by Collegewise • collegewise.com