Finding the Perfect Fit: School (Part 1 of a 3 Part Series)

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October 30th, 2013 by schoolbound

I recently had a discussion with a good friend of mine about what we would do differently, looking back now at our college choices and career paths that we chose in our late teens. If only I knew then what I know now! How many times have you said that? I know I am not alone in that sentiment, and it applies to many different aspects other than just area of study or degree choice. Finding the right school can essentially change your life’s direction in many ways, not just educationally. If I had chosen to go to the University of Colorado in Boulder with 8 months of skiing at my disposal,  my lifestyle would be completely different than if I chose to go to the University of Miami in Florida where I could take Marine Biology and have tropical waters at my disposal. Of course my degree choice is an important factor in determining where I would apply, but so is my lifestyle choice, school culture, and general atmosphere.

There are so many factors to consider when choosing a school for yourself; like the climate, the activities in and outside of school, the
coursework, the demographics, location or proximity to a city (or not), public transportation, cost of living and more. Your college experience is completely different depending on the size of the school you choose as well, whether it be a small private college versus a sprawling University campus, a city campus or rural campus, or even an online university. All of these things are important variables to consider when making your choice depending on your personal situation, age, location, financial situation, free time etc. For some, online classes are the way to go, and for others attending a campus class works best.

I suggest that you consider these factors below when trying to come up with a list of priorities, wish list items, and preferences while making your list of schools to help you narrow your choices.

  1. Degree or course of study. There is a reason this is number 1. Simply because this narrows your choices down right away as not all schools offer the same things.
  2. Location, location, location. Think about where you’d like to live for 2-4 years. Do you like the cold? If not… why on earth would you attend a school in Syracuse NY where it snows 6 months out of the year? Don’t be miserable and suffer for your study, but don’t go somewhere you know you will never attend class because the surf is up either.
  3. Size matters. Do you like to have more personal access to your instructor or do you want to be one in a sea of faces and be graded by your student number? The size of a campus or classroom does make a difference, so do your research and see what works best for your style of learning.
  4. Proximity. Will you be working through your time in college? Will you need access to public transportation to get from work to school and home? Do you want to be in the proximity of a variety of work choices as well as social activities off campus? Will you have a car or rely solely on foot, bike or public transport?
  5. Cost. Not just tuition but cost of living, expenses like travel and housing, access to Financial Aid and Grants etc. If you go to school in a resort town will you be able to afford food and clothing as well as housing and books?
  6. Credit transfer. If you have taken some pre-requisite courses prior to applying to this school will these credits transfer?
  7. Class times. This applies especially for online courses, but does the class schedule work with your schedule? If you are working full or part time can the class schedule fit in with work and vice versa? If you have kids of your own does the schedule work around being able to spend time with them as well?

College can change your life in many ways, some that you may not even realize. If you spend 2-4 years in a place and make connections and get involved in a community, you may end up staying after you graduate or finding something you never knew interested you. Consider all of these things when deciding your future as they can make a huge impact on the rest of your life.