For some people, college acceptance and rejection letters are already starting to arrive. For others, there are still applications to fill out, interviews to attend, SAT practice tests to plow through, and universities to visit, not to mention GPAs to maintain and extracurriculars to participate in. The four years you spend at college end up being some of the most enjoyable and formative of your life. Picking a university could honestly affect the trajectory of your entire life, from your career to your friends and even whom you marry. Picking the right college is a question of instinct, preference and some hard fact. Some signs that a school might be perfect for you include…
1. The location is exactly what you want/need
From urban, suburban, and rural settings to the weather and climate, there are lots of elements that constitute the perfect location for you. Maybe you need sunny skies year round, or want to experience all four seasons. Perhaps you grew up in a big city and have always dreamed of getting lost in nature after growing up in a big city. On a pragmatic note, you may need to attend college in an urban area to take advantage of different internship opportunities, which are far easier to come by in large metropolitan areas. Much like real estate, one of the cardinal rules of picking a college is “location, location, location.”
2. There’s Greek life(or no Greek life)
It’s important to keep in mind that at some schools, Greek life is a dominating force that can affect your social life, grades, and career hunt. Some schools don’t even have sororities or fraternities on campus, and look toward other student organizations to fill the void. Large state schools usually emphasize Greek life, so if you’re really into the idea of repping some letters, look into schools like that.
3. The size is right
Whoever said “size doesn’t matter” was so wrong. There are schools with student bodies that could fill a town, and others where the undergrad population could probably fit in your house. With all the variety, it’s important to know where you fit in. Large schools have the benefit of lots of funding, tons of new people to meet, and multiple options for classes, but you run the risk of getting lost in the crowd. It’ll sting when you’re taking a hard class with 500 other students and are struggling to even talk to the professor. On the flipside is the small school where class sizes are relatively tiny, making intimate connections is a cinch, and you get plenty of attention. It’s comforting to be in a small environment, but it can get claustrophobic. Small schools tend to feel like high school, with gossip spreading like wildfire and everyone knowing everyone else’s business. Whether large or small, the size of your perfect school should make you feel comfortable. You’ll be able to enjoy all the benefits and handle the challenges that come with it.
4. The presence of your major(s)
If you already know what you want to study, you should probably look for a school that actually offers your major. It’ll be hard to study marine biology in landlocked Nebraska or musicology if no one teaches it. Your perfect school will definitely have the majors you’re interested in.
5. Accessible faculty
Maybe an acclaimed film critic works teaches in the motion pictures department, or an award-winning linguistic anthropologist conducts research through your school. One of the definite signs that a school is perfect for you is that someone who’s an expert in the field you’re passionate about is willing and ready to work with you.
6. Post grad placement and opportunities
Check the stats of the graduating classes from your college and get an idea of what its post-graduate placement looks like. Bonus points if the alumni network is active and invested in the school.
7. The party/social scene is your idea of fun
Some colleges have a social scene built entirely around house parties and frat functions, while other places have a club scene, and still others focus on barhopping and eating out. There are lots of different ways to socialize, but ask yourself if you’d rather rage in a club, or kick back in a friend’s house. Maybe you want a little of both, or you’d rather spend your free time doing something else entirely. Keep in mind that a huge part of your college life won’t be mentioned in any brochures or pamphlets.
8. The campus is your idea of ideal
Colleges can be traditional, with buildings surrounding a quad, or more alternative, with classes conducted in high rises all over a city. If you picture ivy and brick more than modern architecture and stark white buildings, look for that in your college.
9. The housing is someplace you can call home
Considering that the dorms will be the focal point of your life for at least one year of your life, it’s important to give some thought to them. Some schools offer on-campus housing for all four years of undergrad, while others force upperclassmen to move elsewhere. Most universities dorms are more than a little bleak, but some are downright glamorous. Look into the housing situation and make sure it seems livable to you.
10. That feeling you get when you visit/think/talk about your school
When facts fail and there are no other opinions left to voice, instinct kicks in. Sometimes your perfect college presents itself and you just know. Even if it’s not perfect on paper, you know you’ll be happy there, and that’s what’s important.