Five ways to find the best college match

300x200-August-RightSchoolThere are more than 7,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. alone, so how are you supposed to find the right one for you? It’s actually easier than you think, if you follow some basic steps. Here are five ways to help you find a school you’ll love!

1. Think through the important ways that colleges differ from one another. Colleges vary drastically in terms of everything from academic focus and academic rigor to size, campus setting, campus activities, and much more. Start out by making a list of your preferences and which of these attributes are most important to you. For example, maybe finding the right learning environment is pretty important to you but you don’t really have a strong preference about whether you go to a school in a rural or an urban setting. Prioritizing what’s important to you will help you get started on the right path.

2. Start your search online. Fill out your online profile at CollegeWeekLive and you’ll start to receive recommendations of schools that may be a good fit. Visit the online profile pages of the schools, where you can often join in video or text chats with admissions reps and current students to get firsthand knowledge about what the school is really like. Keep an online journal and jot down your impressions about each school. This is a great way to help you start to build your college list and decide which schools to visit in person.

3. Look beyond school rankings. Many factors about a school aren’t easily quantifiable. Check out the Fiske Guide to Colleges to learn about the personality of each school and all kinds of factors, such as academics, faculty, dorms, culture, and even the food.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Informational interviews and campus visits are a great way to get firsthand information about a school. Remember, you’re trying them on for size, just as much as they’re evaluating you as a potential applicant. In this environment, thoughtful questions are encouraged. Some of the things you may want to know are:

•    Will I get personal attention from my professors or are classes in a larger lecture hall environment?
•    Do students tend to cooperate with one another or is it more of a competitive environment?
•    Is the school a pressure cooker or more of a nurturing environment?
•    Are there exciting research being done at the school?
•    How well funded are the research programs?
•    Will I have a chance to do hands-on research?
•    What are student clubs like?
•    Are frats and sororities a major presence?
•    Can I pursue a combined degree?
•    What study abroad opportunities are available?
•    What percentage of students who enroll in the school stay through graduation?
•    What percentage of students are gainfully employed after graduation?
•    What career resources does the school offer?
•    Are there internship and service learning opportunities available?
•    Does the school offer tutoring, study resources, or other support?

5. Think about costs. Use college net price calculators to get an initial idea of tuition costs but don’t rule out ones that have a high-ticket price out of hand. If they’re of interest to you, find out the likelihood that the school will provide a generous financial aid package.

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