Considering that college is ultimately to fulfill your own education needs and desires, helping to advance you socially, emotionally and mentally towards your dream job and then lifestyle, finding the right college is a very important step in your life. It is not however a step that you can go about taking without first considering who you are as a person, what you find important, and where you see yourself in ten, twenty, or more years. Only through knowing yourself can you truly find a college that fits your needs. Yet futures are fluid, they change along with habits and interests, and so are often difficult to pinpoint at an early age. Ignoring smaller details, it seems that there are two large categories of desireable schools: Name Brand and Individual Attention. They each have their own benefits and who you are as a person should be reflected in the emphasis you place on this distinction. All else aside however, college is what you make of it. Figure out what you enjoy, visit widely, talk to students and teachers, and find a place that's comfortable for you. Once there, enjoy your time. Work hard, play hard. Pursue YOUR happiness.
One of the most important things a high school student can learn from being in college is that they should take their high school classes seriously. Not only is this important to achieve a good GPA, for admission and an academic scholarship, but also to be prepared well for college classes. I am a Biology and Economics major. I took AP Biology in high school, but had to take "Organismal Biology". Looking back, this biology course, as well as upper level biology courses, would have been much easier had I spent the time to learn the information rather than memorizing it, only to forget most of this information by the time I entered college. The information in introductory college courses is going to be a review of AP/honors high school classes, by being well prepared, the information can be learned and connected. It is easy to tell a high school student that they should take their classes seriously, but without giving them a method to do this, the advice is fruitless. Therefore, I would explain the best way to learn information is to understand and integrate the major themes and comprehend the big picture, rather than the minute details.
There is no formula. Once you understand that each student has their own needs, and their own desires, choosing the right college for you becomes a much less daunting task. Visit each school, and talk to the students. Don't go on a saturday morning when everyone is still asleep, because no matter where you go, they will be. Ask the same questions to different people, include students, professors (if possible), and staff in your survey. Obviously the cafeteria workers won't have any clue about study abroad opportunities, but they have a valuable perspective on the student body, and social interaction. If you haven't been thinking about social life, you should be. Think hard about what you want from your social life at school. Even if you know you won't be binge drinking on a wednesday night, your roomate might be. Your friends down the hall might be. You could be dragged into situations you'd rather stay away from, and even if you do steer clear, you'll probably spend alot of time interacting with people who won't. The general happiness of students on campus will greatly influence your experience. It's all about experience!
When students want to find a college that they will be satisfied with they should consider the location, size, and policies that they would prefer to work with. When deciding where to go to college, two things in proximity to the school should be considered. Students must know if they should realistically be far from or close to home. Do they or do they not care about what surrounds their campus? Do they want to go to a college near a city, in a city, or even near a town? Size is also important in two ways - in terms of population and in the actual physical sense of how big the campus is. Some students are better suited to small schools while others would prefer a large university, there are pros and cons for each that should be weighed. How big the campus is really does matter as well, because the student should know if they will need to walk or drive to their classes, practices, and events. Knowing the requirements the school has for choosing classes each year, and how many classes the college requires each year is important for undecided students and those certain of their major.
College is what you make of it, no matter which school you attend. Having said that, go to the best place you get in! If you think you aren't ready for college, there's nothing wrong with taking time off, but do something productive during that time-- volunteer, intern, start a blog-- make a contribution. When you get to college, go to all the orientation events, no matter how dumb they seem. The people you meet there will become your friends. Talk to your professors too, go to their office hours-- they are there to help you. They have so much to offer. If you are overwhelmed with the work load, make lists of what needs to be done and prioritize. Form study groups with classmates. If you feel homesick, depressed or anxious, don't keep it bottled up, go talk to someone. Sometimes just talking about it helps. Don't forget to have fun. Take advantage of school events as well as activities off campus. Get involved! An education is important, not just in order to get a job, but to grow as a person. Always keep learning and challenging yourself, even after you've graduated.
I would advise students and parents to select a school where they feel comfortable, because this will allow them to be open to talking to peers and professors about any questions or concerns. A place where the environment seems healthy and as a place where they can learn and grow as a person. College isn't all about getting great grades (though helpful), it's about the whole experience - meeting new people, learning new ideas in class, viewing the world in a different light, and of course having fun as well. Don't let homework consume all of your time, yet don't let your friends pressure you into going out one night instead of finishing an important assignment. Find a college where you feel you can best thrive, whether it's at a small school in the suburbs, or a large school in a city. Where do you think you will learn the most about what you are interested in? Also, do they provide career services and counseling? Go to a college where you can be yourself and can feel comfortable. Don't go somewhere because your friends or parents, go to a place that feels BEST for YOU!
Finding the right college is a big decision. Before beginning your search, it is important for you to examine yourself and the reasons why you want to go to college. Why are you really going? What do you want out of life? Do you need to be close to your family? Next, you have to decide what size school you want to attend. Do you want a smaller school that provides more internal exploration? Do you need or want individualized attention? Or are you okay going into a class with 300 other students? Remember that a name-brand college will not guarantee you future success. Whether you graduate from Harvard or a small liberal arts school all that matters is the skills and experience you receive. It is also not vital to pick a college based on a major. Coming out of high school, you do not have enough information or life experience to choose a major. In order to determine your interest and aptitude you need to take a broad range of courses. Lastly, you can afford to go to any college. Ask for help and advice colleges have amazing financial aid packages. Good luck.
A school must be based upon a person's work ethic. If you are looking for a "party school" it would be best to attend a larger university. For a person with a good work ethic, a liberal arts college, such as Lake Forest is perfect. There are certain classes in eash department that all students are required to take that allow a student to explore the different majors LFC has to offer before picking one that is right for themselves. When a major is decided a counseler will help put a schedule together to take the classes needed to achieve the major of choice. The classes are smaller and teachers are willing to help outisde of class, either during office hours or to schedule an appointment if office hours conflict with a students schedule. For somebody with a learning dissability the accomidations are top notch and professors and the rest of the staff are easy to talk to. Often there are guest speakers, comedians, bands and more that come to the college. All of the people at LFC are friendly and helpful. I cannot forget to mention how beautiful the campus is!
If I had to choose one way for students and or parents to choose the right college, I would say that they should do many college visits and allow their children to do overnight stays if possible. Too many studens go away to schools and find out that they did not like the campus as much as they thought. They also find that the student life there may not be what they expected. I would say that if the family visits a campus and the student goes off and explores on their own ,rather the parents dragging them around, it is a good sign. The student will know when they are in a place that they are comfortable with. They will then begin to explore their surroundings with curiosity. I would tell parents to give their kids resources such as books that describe college profiles. I would also advise parents to make time to take their child to colleges of various sizes. Some students need the small school feel to learn more deeply, and others want to be in the big college experience. Putting your child in the wrong enviornment can mean they feel isolated or lost in the crowd.
Find a school with too many activities that you seriously want to join, and chances are, you'll find a few that aren't serious and many that you love. You find life-time friends in clubs. Also, don't let anyone force you to do something you don't want to do--it sounds cliche, but it's some of the best advice anyone can give you. A lot of the time, as a freshman, you are worried about fitting in, but the thing about college is that people respect you more for your individuality and confidence in yourself than for conforming. At the same time, don't be afraid to experience everything--college is the place to make mistakes. Also, know that you are on your own, and with freedom unfortunately comes responsibility, which means learning to do laundry and clean your room. One of the hardest parts is learning to balance work with play. Find a college that academically challenges you; there is no point in going if you're not going to learn anything. Also, however tempting it may be, don't go with high school friends or you'll miss out on meeting awesome people.