College Search Tip: Narrow Down Your Application Choices

What is a search without knowing what you’re searching for? Sure, you are searching for the right college to attend, but how can you really make that selection if you don’t know exactly what it is you want? You've been working with that ACT tutor and perfecting your GPA - but additionally, no college search should commence without a precise understanding of the kind of experience you’re looking for. The details are infinite and require a lot of attention. Applying to a bunch of schools just because you feel like you should is not a fruitful plan, because just knowing that you want to go to college is not enough. It is not enough for your future and is certainly not enough for a worthy selection of applications choices.

Moreover, the ultimate way to land on a worthy selection of application choices is to learn how to rule out certain options. This college search is a long and important process; you don’t have time to waste on schools that you wouldn’t really be happy attending or don’t legitimately want to go to. While it is smart to put together a wide collection of schools you are interested in at the very beginning, you must weed out the less fulfilling options as soon as possible.

Do this by going through the different aspects of the college experience that make up a school. Identify one by one what you want out of each particular aspect and once you have determined them successfully, you can see how they apply to your wide, initial selection of applications. You may also want to check out this college search tip on how to keep and use a calendar.

The various elements you should evaluate are: 

Distance from home: Are you okay with being hundreds of miles away from your family? Or do you need the safe comfort of your parents being just a short, safe drive away? Think hard about this because it will be one thing you definitely can’t undo once you move away. If you easily get homesick and are already nervous about living on your own, try to keep your selection of schools in a close radius. On the other hand, if you want nothing more than to get out of your hometown and be somewhere completely different, exploring colleges on the other side of the country could be great for you. If a school doesn’t match the criteria you set in this category, it can easily be pushed aside.

Programs offered: Think about what you’d like to study and double-check that every school you’re applying to offers a good program for it. Never assume that all schools teach everything. Especially if your field of study is a little more off the beaten path, it would be wise to thoroughly go through the course catalogs and lists of available majors, just to be sure your intellectual curiosity can be satisfied. No student should have to settle for a field of study they’re not crazy about just because their first choice wasn’t offered. If a school does not provide sufficient learning opportunities for your intended major, move on.

Clubs available: Colleges are widely known for having an insane amount of clubs/organizations on campus. In fact, you’re likely to be overwhelmed with the things offered that you never saw at your high school. However, maybe an extracurricular from high school was really important to you and it would be painful to give up your regular schedule with it. This activity will probably be available at most of the colleges you’re looking at, but it may not be as prominent. For instance, it may not be as popular in a particular city or type of university. It may not receive a lot of funding or get participation in a lot of events. If you see this exhibited at a certain college and the thought of it makes you unhappy, cut that school out and find ones that do give your activity the attention you believe it deserves. Furthermore, if you never really hooked onto any extracurriculars in high school, go through these club lists at your various college options and see which places have organizations that jump out at you. Joining groups like these is one of the best ways to meet people and get acclimated in college, so do not lessen its importance. You may also want to take a look at these tips on how to choose your extracurricular activities.

Transportation: Are you bringing your car to college? Make sure the parking situation isn’t a nightmare and make sure you can afford it. Find out which schools require freshmen to park in a lot that is four bus rides away, or which schools reside in towns with especially unsafe street parking. Maybe you’re not bringing a car and this isn’t an issue, but are you bringing a bike as many college students do? Check to see if the campus is too hilly or if bikes get stolen a lot. Finally, examine the public transportation those schools offer in general and determine how effective the systems are. Take note if bus routes confuse you or if walking everywhere drives you crazy. These are things to consider when eliminating schools due to the transportation aspect.

Student body size: Some students get intimidated by large schools, some get bored out of their minds by small schools. Which category do you fit in? Perhaps you’re like most people and are a mix between the two. In that case, medium-sized schools work, too. All in all, school size makes a huge impact on a specific college experience, so pay attention to it and decide what atmosphere you want before you apply to a place with a student body that will frighten you.

By answering what you want about the most basic elements of college, you’ll have a much easier time narrowing down your choices. Decide on the things that are most important to you that you just can’t live without and watch how they so simply factor into your choices. Having only the best schools (for you personally) to choose from when going into application mode will start to seem a lot more possible.