Definitely involve your parents in the college selection process. Make sure they know what you want and vice versa. It is important to visit the schools that you are interested in and it is super important to interact with the student body there. When visiting a perspective school, don't be shy to stop a random student walking to class and ask them a few questions, because they are the ones that are going to give you the truthful answers. Don't rely on the faculty and staff to answer your questions and paint a picture of the school, they are paid to get you to come there, they're going to tell you anything you want to hear. College is the most important and potentially funnest time in your life, don't let somebody else make the decision for you, do your research and do what your gut tells you.
You need to determine the location (close to home or far away from home) and type of area (i.e. city, rural) where you will be most comfortable. It's also very important to know your preferences regarding the size of the school, size of the classes, and transportation options to get home. Make sure that that the school not only offers courses in your major area, but has many other options, because most students do not graduate with the major with which they entered college. Most importantly, with today's economy such as it is, the school must be affordable. You do not want to graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in loans. Make sure to visit all potential schools either before or after you apply. Talk to the students, eat in the cafeteria, and spend the night if you can!
No book, website, or tour can paint a school with complete accuracy. If you want to really understand what being a student at that college/university means, you have to make an effort to involve yourself: schedule meetings with professors about academic and career opprotunities, talk to students about their experiences, meet with a guidance councelor, and spend a night if you can. DON'T BE SHY TO ASK QUESTIONS! It might feel awkward to talk to a random student on campus, but chances are that they'll be happy to give you advise and give you details about the school that administrators won't. When judging a school, experience everything you can about it first hand and tap all the resources at your disposal. The more you know about your school, the more educated your decision will be.
At the risk of sounding clich?, I advise both parents and their college-bound children to genuinely consider what aspects of life they deem truly important to their educational experience before making a final decision. Location, academic stimulation, ranking, and extra curricular activities are only facts on a page unless they are thoroughly reflected upon by individual students?both on their own and with parental guidance. After honestly establishing one?s own priorities, anywhere that fits self-determined criteria should provide students with an excellent collegiate experience; attending a college that one has chosen for reasons they recognize as valuable should give students not only the necessary confidence to start anew, but also the satisfaction of a well-made choice.
I would tell myself that college is a big transition, and it will be very scary. I would also tell myself not to sweat the small stuff and to be sure to look at the bigger picture when making decisions. I would be sure to reassure myself that it was all going to be ok. Additionally, I would tell myself not to procrastinate, because staying up all night is never worth it, and starting off a semester sleep deprived is not the key to success. I would remind myself that planning out my work and making a homework schedule is a great way to stay on top of my work and make sure everything gets done. Finally, I would reassure myself that talking to professors when there are issues or if I am struggling is never a bad thing, and to not be ashamed to reach out and ask for help.
I think that touring schools is one of the most important things prospective students can do. American University was originally not my first choice. I assumed that I wanted to go to a particular school simply because of its name and academic standing. But after I visited A.U. I realized that there is more to college than just a ranking. It was the whole picture of A.U....the availability for internships, the experience of living in D.C., the diversity of professors and programs, the experience of the staff and faculty, and the "just right" proximity to home. I never would have realized how right all of those things were for me had I not toured, and so it is the biggest recommendation I could give to any students and parents getting ready for college.
Students: Make sure you think about where you'd fit in, and whether you really think you'll survive on that campus. Your college experience is what you make of it; talk to your roommates, your floormates, that random person standing next to you in the lunch line. You'd be surprised the people you meet. Take advantage of your professors and their expertise, and also take a good look at the career center and the counselors. They are very helpful people. Parents: Let your student decide where they want to go...remind them of all the things you can think of to help them make a good decision. But in the end, it's THEIR life. Let them choose where they want to go, because they will be much happier, and therefore much more successful, because of it.
The best advice I could give someone when it comes to choosing a college is to let the college pick you. I visited 7 - 10 schools in my search for "the one," and only one campus made me feel that tingly feeling of belonging and purpose. Even sitting in the usually boring introduction session with my parents I was thrilled to be at American University and to hear all of the opportunities possible for me. Students and their parents should look for what best suits their beliefs and goals for the future, and they should also find a place that the student attending can personally be comfortable and happy. At such an age of discovery and learning, teenagers and adolescents must find a place where they can find themselves before they can find their future.
I think that everyone has a basic understnading of whether they like a small school or big school depending on the attention they need from their professors to succeed. From there you look at the professors and their relationship with the students, theor availability and their aid in finding internships and jobs. Then I would look at what the program you want offers and their ranking because you want the best. I think it is important to look at clubs, volunteering opportunities and ensure that they have the activities you like. Also, I would look at the general education classes or required classes required. Also, the transfer rate and percent graduation rate and look deeper into this. I think that this would help a lot of peoples experience.
When looking for a college have a clear sense of what you do and don't want from your college experience. I wanted the chance to move somewhere and 'get lost.' I've always seen college as being another opportunity for adventure and discovery, and by being in a foriegn place I've been able to realize what I do and don't want in my life. On the top of your college search list write down what it is you want, and with that inspiration in mind begin to explore the opportunities. Don't be afraid to pick one or two schools that you would never be interested in, I ended up going to my back-up school and I don't think I would've been as happy anywhere else. Most of all remember that it doesn't matter where you end-up, what matters is the journey.