Narrowing Down Your Choices

Your ardous college search has likely left you considering many colleges. Before you begin completing applications, you need to narrow down to a manageable number of colleges. You want to apply to a variety of schools but applying to many schools can be costly (most applications have a fee associated with them), and can make it difficult to coordinate recommendations, transcripts, and other supporting materials. Most students typically apply to 3-6 different schools, but the exact number depends on your particular situation. Your guidance counselor can provide you with help if you are unsure. Below are some tips that will help you narrow down your choices:

1. Evaluate Yourself

Know what you want out of college. Do you want to come out of college with a lot of real world experience and expertise in your area? Then perhaps a college with a strong co-op program is a good choice. Unsure of what you want to do, but know your interest is in the liberal arts? Then perhaps you should seek out a liberal arts university that encourages students to explore interests during their early college years. Knowing your purpose for going to college and your eventual goals can help you narrow down your choices. Just remember that it's okay to change your mind! Many students go to college with a set major and goal in mind but then figure out they want something different. That is okay! The college experience is, in part, about figuring out what your interests, strenghts, and talents.

2. Seek advise and information

Ultimately, the choices of college to apply to is yours. However, seeking out advice from parents, family members, teachers, guidance counselors, and friends can only help you make a decision. Everyone's perspective is different so remember you don't have to do this alone. If you want to know more about a college's social life or environment then why not ask someone who went there? Maybe one of your teachers or family members went to school there or a place nearby. Their first hand experience can be valuable. Eventually, you seek to balance out all the information so that you can make the best informed decision.

3. Look for a perfect match

You started this whole process by evaluating your wants and needs. A good strategy is to match those wants and needs with schools and see if they meet your criteria. For some people, individualized attention is important. In such cases, it might be wise to consider a smaller school where classes are smaller and faculty pay more attention to students rather that a larger school with big ectures mostly delivered by teaching assistants. Knowing a school's profile allows to match schools to your priorities. Ultimately, how happy you are with a college will depend not on the reputation or name of the school but in how that school matches up against your expectations and desires. Try to imagine yourself in a particular college environment, can you seel yourself there? Can you imagine fitting in and being comfortable in that environment?



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