Selecting the Best Colleges for You

Many applicants find the college selection process to be quite stressful. Some find it so distasteful that they spend inadequate time choosing the schools where they want to spend the next 4 years of their lives. The college you select will play a large role in your future. It will help or hinder your career development. It will be the place where many of  your life-long friendships are established. It may even be the place where you will meet your future spouse!

Not to be overlooked here is that the schools that present your best “fit” are, perhaps ironically, also the schools where your admissions chances will be highest. This introduction should provide more than enough motivation to you to take this step very seriously.

Start Looking at Schools Early

Unlike your essays and letters of reference, the college selection can and should begin relatively early. The fall of your senior year will be a very busy time, so plan early to ensure your time is optimized and the senior year is made as stress free as possible. We believe serious consideration for college selection should begin by the junior year.

college selection

For high school seniors, college selection is often emblematic of the Robert Frost poem about two roads diverged.

Ask friends, older students, teachers, family, guidance counselors, and others for advice. Be sure to follow up with the “why?” question. Why did they like the professors? Why did they not like the campus? Remember, you have to make your own decisions and you will want to know the logic behind the inputs you are accepting for your decision.

On a related note, take this solicited advice with a slight grain of salt. You have had honest differences of opinions with these same people in the past and this may be no different. Also bear in mind that if you ask your neighbor how he likes XYZ college, his answer may vary depending on whether it is currently spring break or if he is busy preparing for final exams.

Browse college guides, CD-ROMS, and the Internet for college selection data on schools that may be of interest. You should probably know that UC Berkeley is a very liberal campus. You should also want to know that the weather in Ann Arbor, Michigan is not the most pleasant.

Information is power and the more of it you have, the better the decision you will be able to make.

Your College Selection Criteria

Think about the criteria that matter most to you and assign weights to them. For instance if attending a very quantitatively demanding university is more important than being in warm weather or having a nationally-ranked football team, then MIT will be a better choice for you than University of Miami. Here are some of the criteria that should be carefully considered:

  • Cost
  • Location
  • Prestige
  • Public versus Private
  • Special Interest
    • Arts
    • Conservative/Liberal
    • Choice of Majors
    • Historically Black
    • Innovative Curriculum
    • Learning Disability
    • Nonconformist
    • Roman Catholic
    • Technical
    • Women

Admissions Standards and Selectivity

You should not pay much attention to this criteria until the end of the college selection process. Considering this criterion earlier may result in the premature elimination of potential schools. For example, unless prestige is considered very important to you, you may reduce your choices to the Ivy League colleges before you have had a chance to consider, say, the honors program at the University of Maryland. Do yourself a favor and cast as wide a net as possible.