Make sure that when you visit the school, dont just take the campus tour and then be on your way. Get a little more in depth. Talk to the students attending there and get their input on the campus and how life is. Visit the town and see how it is and if it has the essentials; grocerys, apothecary, fast food, liquor store, movie store. Also check to see if there are interesting things to do in the area. College is not only about learning a new trade, ist about learning who you are and how you are going to live your life and if the school you are going to does not cater to those needs then its not the right place for you. Find your niche and have fun.
Although Hobart and William Smith Colleges wasn't my first choice to pursue my undergraduate degree, it by far was divine intervention that I attended such an amazing institution. When searching for a perfect fit be not limited to the environments one is accustomed to. College is a place where one doesn't find themeself but rather begins a journey to create a new person. Take advantage of every experience even those that seem difficult to comprehend. Look for a community of leaders, a faculty of support and a school of potential friends and connections to further education. Good Luck!
Definitely visit the schools you are interested in. There is no way to tell what school you will fit in just by learning about it online. Attend the school that you feel most comfortable at and have strong programs in academic fields in which you are interested. Find a school that has a strong study-abroad program - it is a once in a lifetime opportunity that could greatly impact your life in a positive way. Don't go to a school based on its prestige - it's not necessarily important where you graduate from, but how you you perform and live your undergraduate life while you're there.
Stop worrying about the ivy leagues or name brand schools. Let your kids decide where they want to go based on what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. Liberal arts is good for well roundedness, but if your kid wants something more focused that requires graduate studies, then go for more specialized fields like science and math. Bigger Universities are probably better for that matter. But for having a good experience without a lot of distraction, a small, out of the way, liberal arts college is a great place to be, especially if they have a study abroad porgram.
Having been accepted to a large city school (BU) and a small upstate NY school (HWS) I am glad I chose the later. The small class size and tight community here creates an ideal enviornment for learning and bonding. I love this school but really need the scholarship money as the economy crashes and college prices soar. When looking for a college, one should focus on the campus and people when visiting and ask themselves if they would feel comfortable at that institution. I am so happy with my choice of school and hope I have enough money to get through the last years.
Don't worry about not being able to find a school, there's a school for everyone and it'll appear before the search process is done. You may have a rough transition at first, but the most important thing is to stick it out and turn lemons into vodka cocktails and have a good time. Remember you can only go to college once, so don't get hung up on not knowing everyone at first, you'll inevitably find a solid group of friends (or brothers/sisters if you go greek) that will effectively change your life forever, and definately for the better!
Feelings of fit and comfort are important. You cannot just look at the rank of the school and the programs offered. Even if on paper the school looks perfect, you need to go look at it. Sometimes you can tell a school is not right for you even if you cannot tell why. You need to listen to that. Otherwise, you may be going to a great school but you'll be miserable. Pick the slightly lower school if you feel comfortable there. You'll do better in the long run and you'll enjoy your time, which is important.
Students and Parents -- I'd highly advise you both to visit the campus together, have a tour as well as attend a sporting event just to see how the campus interacts with one another. Playing a college sport definitely heightened my experience so if you are on the fence about that I'd highly advise you to do it. Although it's hard to balance academics and sports, the experience is extremely rewarding allowing you to meet some great friends, keep your academic life focused and have fun playing your sport!
Take as many campus visits as possible. The last thing you should worry about is the cost of the school. Choose the place where you feel most comfortable and you could see yourself attending for the next four years. Take the risk that you are going to get out with your degree in 4 years and be able to get a job immediately or go on to grad school. Your loans may look intimidating at first, but they can be paid back relatively easily. Make sure the college fits your personality and your agenda.
Go with your gut, and don't listen to what other people try to push you towards. You will feel it if you're supposed to be on that campus. Parents: Let your kids decide on their own! They're 18; they're grown-ups, they can do it. Once on campus, prepare to be overwhelmed. That's normal. You aren't going to love it right away, most likely. But don't be afraid to ask for help--counseling services are there for a reason, and it can help you start to love where you are.