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How to Pick a College or University

by Catherine M. Albano, Demand Media

    Choosing which college or university to attend is the first major life decision most high school students make. Some students embrace this opportunity; others avoid it, overwhelmed by the implications. This decision does not have to be a paralyzing one. Many support systems are in place to help you choose the right school.

    Introspection

    Take a good look at yourself, considering both your strengths and weaknesses. Consider how these strengths and weaknesses translate into skills that you would like to hone during your college years. College is a time for learning and examining your abilities and limitations. You don’t have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life, but it helps to have a general idea of what you can and cannot do. Gather your SAT or ACT test scores, and know your high school grade point average. These factors will help you determine which schools will be easier to get into and which will be a challenge. A common approach is to choose at least one school that is sure to accept you, one that will be a challenge to gain admittance to and one that falls somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.

    High School Guidance Counselor

    Your high school guidance counselor provides a connection with schools that fit your qualifications. She can offer suggestions based on your grades, interests and goals based on her knowledge of colleges and universities. Guidance counselors keep in touch with college officials and maintain schedules of when college representative visit high schools. If you get in touch with your counselor early enough in your high school career, he or she will ensure that your high school class load is appropriate for the colleges that you want to apply to.

    Research

    Use the many college databases at your disposal to determine which schools might be right for you. For example, at the College Board website, you can match schools to your interests by entering preferences such as the school’s type, size, location, campus, available majors, sports, activities, selectivity, cost, support services and diversity. Once you have set these preferences, the database will present you with a list of all the colleges and universities that match your qualifications. Whichever source you choose to perform this search, be sure that it is credible and provides links to accredited schools.

    Visit

    After consulting with your guidance counselor, possibly meeting with college representatives and researching your options, visit each school on your list. No amount of research you do from home can replace seeing the campus in person. A visit allows you to get a sense of how the campus feels and whether or not it will fit you personally. If you can meet with current professors and students to talk about their experiences at the school, do so. Make notes after each visit to remember the pros and cons of each campus.

    Finances

    The finances often affect the college decision. Private colleges often cost significantly more than public universities. You'll pay more to attend a state-run university in a different state where you don't have residency. The cost of a college education is daunting, but do not let a school’s price tag dissuade you from applying. Various factors will affect the eventual cost of your college education. Scholarships, grants, student loans and work-study can make a seemingly expensive college affordable. After you submit your applications, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine how much financial aid you qualify for.

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    About the Author

    Catherine M. Albano has worked in various forms of publishing for more than 24 years as an art trainee, magazine production editor, composition and layout specialist, and project editor. She has written articles for various websites and graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English, concentration in writing.

    Photo Credits

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