Do you look forward to spending autumn and winter Saturdays cheering on your nationally ranked football team, along with 50,000 of your closest friends? Or would you be much happier at school where everyone knows your name, and you know theirs? Obviously, these are two radically different college experiences, and just as obviously, some folks will feel at home in one, and completely miserable in the other. Your college environment can have a tremendous impact on how well you do in school, how well you like it, lifelong friendships you'll form, networking and career connections made, etc. And "environment" is an all encompassing term. Keep all these factors in mind when doing a college search.
There are thousands and thousands of colleges in America, and each one is different. Many are alike in a lot of ways, but no two are exactly alike, and any two random colleges could have little or nothing in common. That's one of the great things about our educational system, but it can also seem bewildering to a student who's contemplating choosing a college for the first time. Narrowing down your college choices starts with asking yourself why you're going to college, and how you plan to spend your time there, and what sorts of things you like doing, etc. If you're hoping to get an associates degree, or a certificate, then you'll want to concentrate on more technically oriented colleges. Those who are looking for the traditional college "experience" will be drawn to large public universities where athletics plays such a dominant role in college life. But others may prefer little known colleges with small enrollments in order to find soul mates in exploring the life of the mind.
For those who don't want to be distracted, there are single sex colleges to apply to. Yes, there are still some. Wabash College in Indiana is a highly respected all male college, and there are several colleges in America that only admit women. Are you looking for the heady excitement of night life in the big city, such as Dallas or Chicago or New York? There are plenty of colleges like SMU, University of Chicago, and Columbia U to choose from. But there are plenty of colleges set in more rural, small town environments. If you're hoping to get involved in a fraternity or sorority while you're at college, you'll want to check out how much of a Greek scene there is at various colleges. Private? Public? Religious? Non sectarian? Each of these categories will make some students happy, and leave others highly dissatisfied. What about intramural sports? At many colleges and universities, IM sports are hugely popular, and comprise a large portion of the social scene. At other schools, IM sports are nearly non existent. If you love softball and flag football, you'll want to check IM sports out before making a final college choice. Choosing the right college involves a lot of highly personal factors, many of them matters of individual taste. Only you can make the decision, but choose wisely, as it's important to be happy while you're preparing for your future.
Last Updated: 08/20/2013