Prom is done, finals are over, and your brain is officially on summer vacation, but somewhere lurking in the far recesses of your mind looms that which you can only deny for so long…you must begin the search to pick a college. Entering a new phase of your life can be scary and intimidating. While some dive head first into change, others bury their heads in the sand hoping the uncertainty will magically go away. Luckily, though, everything you need to know about starting your college search is really just a re-application of the lessons you learned in Kindergarten.
1) You’ve got a friend-If you don’t know what you want to study, where you want to go geographically or whether or not you want a big small or small school, you are NOT alone. Even those people who claim to know exactly what they want to study change their mind, more than once, before they graduate from college.
2) Go Outside!! If you are starting from square one, just go…somewhere, anywhere. Pick a school, even if it’s one that you don’t have any intention of going to (too close to home, too nerdy, too many jocks, whatever). Getting yourself onto a campus will help you begin to articulate some of the facets of college life that you do and don’t like which will make your next steps and next visits easier to determine.
3) Stop, Look, and Listen- There’s an element of searching for a college that’s just like learning to cross a street. When you visit a campus, don’t just follow the tour guide around, listening to the finely honed message. You’ve taken the time to travel to the campus, so take some to observe and talk to students. Read the campus newspaper. Eat the cafeteria food and listen to the conversation going on around you and look at fliers advertising campus events.
4) Don’t be so picky – at the initial stages of your search, cast a wide net. Early on in the process remember that you’re not picking a college, you’re choosing some possibilities. You will get into some, but you may not get into others. Don’t be so picky that you rule schools out because the paint color on the dorm room walls is not a good match for your personal Feng Shui. Instead, have a group of schools that are acceptable to you. Worry about rank ordering them once you know where you’ve been accepted.
Get moving. Do something. You’ll find that just by taking some action, you’ll begin to articulate what you want and don’t want, like and don’t like. The vast majority of students change their majors at least once after they begin college. Don’t get so hung up on the specifics that you lose sight of the big picture. Your goal is to choose a college that matches your personality and learning style. Choose an environment in which you are comfortable but that will challenge you to grow socially and intellectually.