How do I pick a college that is right for me?

How do I pick a college that is right for me?


You’ve hit a special time in your life. You’re ready to select a college, but you have no idea where to begin. There are over 4,000 colleges in the United States, so how can you possibly choose just one? 

Take a deep breath. It’s okay not to know exactly what you want from a college. Focus on what you know about yourself, and you may discover that you’ve decided more about your dream school than you thought.   

Take a moment and think about where you want to spend the next four years of your life. Do you want to go to school close to home, or would you rather explore a totally different part of the country? The choice is yours, but, in your excitement about exploring something new, don’t forget to account for the possibility of homesickness. Sometimes, you just need to be able to hug your dog.  

Think for a minute about other aspects of location. Do you thrive in snowy, frigid conditions or a hot and humid region, or would you more enjoy a place that experiences all four seasons? Do big cities excite you, or would you prefer to be in a closer-knit community? The college you choose will be your home for the next four years. The climate and the culture that surround your future campus will also be aspects of your new home, so it’s important to pick a location that will make you happy. 

Once you’ve decided where you see yourself post-high school, consider your personality as a student. What do you value in your relationships with your current teachers? If you enjoy having personal connections with your teachers and professors, a school known for its smaller class sizes might be a better fit for you but if you’re ready to learn alongside hundreds of your peers in lecture halls, you might prefer a school with a larger study body 

You’ve narrowed your college choices to a few broad categories of colleges, and you might even have a list of specific colleges that interest you, but now what? How do you pick just one? 

Start searching for what makes each college unique 

  1. Take a campus visit to a few different schools, if you have not already. Some students are fortunate enough to know the right fit for them as soon as they step on a campus; others may need to do further consideration and even need to visit the same campus multiple times. On your way home from a campus visit, make a list of the school’s pros and cons while they are still fresh in your head. Delve deeper than what you saw on the campus tour to find out what life at the school is really like.  
  2. Do some research on the school’s academic programsas well as the opportunities for athletics or extracurricular activities.  
  3. Reach out to current students at the college. Ask them why they picked that particular school, ask their favorite study spots on campus or their favorite places to eat, and, perhaps most importantly, ask their least favorite things about the college. Although it may be hard to focus on the negative aspects of your dream school, it’s important that you have an honest, complete picture of your potential home for the next four years. 
  4. Compare the pros and cons of each college to the cost attendance, including any scholarships or financial aid you may have earned. Investigate what opportunities for student employment or financial aid are available at each of your top colleges 

When you’ve managed to narrow down the nation’s 4,000 colleges to a select handful that seem to be the right fit for you,  give yourself a pat on the back! If you are still not confident in your decision, talk with a trusted adult or friend for guidance.  

Consider also the spirit of the school or schools you are thinking of attending. Picture yourself in a sweatshirt representing each of your top choices. What sweatshirt do you see yourself wearing? When you can pick a sweatshirt, make sure its message says with certainty, “I’m proud of my college. It’s the right choice for me.” When you do, you may have found your perfect fit! 

This special interest piece was written by Kimmie Collins, Communication major, Indiana State University.