The College Search: What Schools Should I Apply To?

So Vy’s tidbit about the college experience just made me realize that a lot of you are probably at the age where you are either applying to, or thinking about applying to colleges. Given that a couple of us Teen Skepchicks are already in college, we could probably be useful sources of information about the college application/decision process.

Since current high school seniors have probably just sent in their applications, this post is more aimed towards juniors, who should, if they have not already, start considering what types of schools they want to visit, and eventually apply to.

The first thing I suggest you do is get a college book. My (read: my mom’s) book of choice was the Fiske Guide but there are others, including the Princeton Review’s, which I also used a bit. These books have descriptions colleges, including basic statistics like average GPA and SAT scores, admission percentages, most popular majors, average class size, student to teacher ratio, etc. Additionally, many of them also have some student opinions/descriptions of the schools. This information can be particularly useful if you have an idea of what type of school you want.

This brings me to my next point. There are an overwhelming number of colleges to choose from but by identifying some key characteristics you want in a school, you can narrow down your choices significantly. Before reading about every college in the book, it might help to make a list of things you definitely would like to consider. Here are some examples:

  • Size – There are some colleges that have less than 500 students and others that have more than 100,000. Would you prefer a smaller, more close knit campus, or one where there are always new people to meet?
  • Majors – Are you interested in a specific major or program? Most colleges have some program that they are particularly strong in. Additionally, if you are interested in something specific, like pharmacy, your choices will be narrowed down quite a bit because there are a limited number of schools that have that program.
  • Location – Do you prefer the city, the country, or something in between? Or perhaps you want to stay near home (or go as far as possible)?
  • Class size – Would you like to have small, discussion classes, or large lecture classes, or a mix of the two?
  • Extracurriculars – Is there a specific sport or activity you want to do in college?
  • Price – This one is pretty important, given the economy and the fact that college prices are soaring lately. Find out how much your parents can pay and how much you think you are willing to take out in loans. Public schools have much smaller price tags, and there are some really good public colleges out there.

Obviously there are many other things to consider in choosing the place where you will spend 4 years of your life (and a significant amount of money) but this is a good starting point. This will allow you to narrow down the myriad of choices, and then you can read about some schools that fit the bill, and decide which you would like to visit!

I plan to do some other posts about visiting schools, admission interviews, and finally deciding which school to go to, but in the meantime, if you have any questions you think I could answer feel free to ask in the comments!

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  1. vreify
    December 8, 2008 at 7:56 pm —

    Great post, Jackie. I just have some other things to add, if you don’t mind:

    1. Take a gap year if you need it! Personal growth and discovery are just as, if not more, important than your education.
    2. On the same theme as above: don’t be afraid to pursue alternatives. This includes a couple years at junior college, the army, volunteering, and taking odd jobs while you pursue your fleeting interest in theater. Just make sure you’ll actually get something valuable out of it.
    3. Visit as many colleges as you can. You want to feel comfortable on campus, not alienated.

  2. w_nightshade
    December 9, 2008 at 7:10 am —

    For slightly younger students (e.g. sophomores), I would point you to my college experience:
    Are You Bored With High School? Check Out Simon’s Rock (!

  3. December 11, 2008 at 10:48 pm —

    Thanks for the tip!

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