Are you standing at the foot of a huge mountain known as the COLLEGE APPLICATION PROCESS? Are you searching for pathways, wondering how you are going to climb, let alone get started? How do you choose colleges?
There are 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States. Great, now what?
Start at the beginning by getting to know yourself and your desired learning atmosphere. Do you want a big school where you can sit in lectures and quietly take notes and study? Do you want to sit in a room with 15 other nervous freshmen staring wide-eyed at a professor who wants you to join the discussion of Plato’s Republic or real world applications of the Pythagorean Theorem? Do you want to go to a school with nationally known college sports teams; or do you prefer joining a pick-up soccer, ultimate Frisbee or Quidditch game? Do you want to live in the hustle and bustle of a large city with all of its distractions and entertainments at your finger-tips, or do you want to live in a smaller town with a slower pace of life where your world centers on your college? Want to join a fraternity/sorority or avoid them at all costs? Are you willing to leave home? Are you thinking you can’t wait to explore the world around you? (Put aside financial concerns for now, you might be very surprised about how affordable college can be. That will be addressed later columns.)
The best place to start is by asking yourself questions. Steven Antonoff, author of the excellent book College Match, created an incredibly informative starting place with his survey the College Match Self Survey (http://schoolbuff.com/self-survey.asp ). Take the survey and look at the results. Equally useful and on-line, get to know the Big Future site, www.bigfuture.org , this site will lead you to surveys, college searches, career advice, and financial aid information. Prefer the feel of paper, go to your college counseling center and look at their resources. Pick up, or borrow, a copy of Fiske Guide to Colleges. Start leafing through and reading about colleges and institutions with an incredible array of offerings to suit every type of student. There is alos a reasonably priced version of Fiske, The Fiske Online Interactive College Search.
Let yourself dream. Ignore the babble about how hard it is to get into college. Did you know that 75% of college applicants get accepted by their first choice school? Look at both private and public schools, look at both schools in-state and out-of-state. Look for majors or programs that you are interested in. Do you have a passion for leadership, for social justice, for international relations? Do you want to learn everything there is to learn about computers? Do you want to dance, sing, study Chinese, or focus on your intended career in business? Do you have absolutely no idea what you’d like to do or what you’d like to be? That’s okay too, over 80% of college applicants apply undeclared. Did you know that 75% of people who declared majors change them at least twice!
Get started by asking questions and looking around. Ignore your friends and family and see what sounds interesting. Don’t focus on only prestigious colleges, the UCs, or community college. Spread your net wide and see what you catch. You might be very pleasantly surprised.