Go with your gut. First visit different types of schools - Urban, Suburban, etc... - and then when you feel comfortable at one, look at a few more colleges that have a similar atmosphere. No matter where you go, you get out what you put in. At my college, I feel as though I have achieved more than many Harvard graduates but that is only because I set out to do so. Make sure there are a few professors who are great at what you want to do and go to the school that makes you feel the most comfortable. To get the most out of college, being comfortable is the most important factor and the knowledge will come with it. Although professors are there to give you knowledge, I find it more effective to take it.
Remember you can reinvent yourself, and don't let that opportunity pass you by. Especially if you're the only one from your high school going, no one will know what you were like. Put an effort in to be the person you've aspired to be the past couple years. A remember, just because you found Marist because a specific major doesn't mean it's not a big deal if you decide to switch from that original major. Have girlfriends, boyfriends aren't vitally important so be sure to keep your girlfriends close. But most importantly, have fun, stay focused with your coursework, but still remember to have fun. It's that cliche "once in a lifetime," kind of opportunity, so enjoy it.
I have been at Marist for not even five months and I have accomplished more than I ever imagined I would in an entire year. I have written beyond 20 papers, studied for about 30 exams, got involved in more than 5 activities, and made friends who I believe I will have for the rest of my life. College is funny. Before entering I though I knew exactly what I wanted. I was confident despite everyone telling me you will change your ideas over the course of four years. Already, I have questioned what I though I knew, and have realized I didn't really know and still do not know what my future holds. But, I guess that's the beauty of college isn't it? My answer: yes.
I would tell parents or students to go with there "gut feeling" , if they feel comfortable with the settings there, then go with it. I feel a big part of college is the people you meet there and the long lasting freinds you make. In highschool the freinds you make there go in different directions sometimes, and barely keep contact. In college you may meet your future spouse, or lifelong friend. It's also omportant that resources like internet, books, and internships are availble. You are building towards your future out there in the world. Lastly just fully indulge yourself in the college experince because those are memories that you'll remember forever.
To find the right college, it is definitely important to visit the school first if possible. The feeling you get from being on the college campus can definitely confirm or change your feelings about the school. Also, focus on YOUR needs and desires and not your friends; i know everyone says that but its really true and it's funny how influential friends can be. To make most of the college experience, take courses that will challenge you and you are interested in. Also, freshman year everyone is new so as hard as it may be, do not be afraid to go out and make friends. Also, being open is a big key factor in to making new friends and having more fun.
Don't worry so much. You will make an easy transition, because you chose a school that represents you and your goals in life. you will be able to fit in because people will see who you are and recognize the positive traits about you. Marist is a good school that will do its best to make sure you are a comfortable freshman. you will realize that dorm life is more comfortable than not, once you get over sharing a bathroom with your entire floor. you will enjoy the hustle and bustle of people moving around you, and won't be annoyed by the noise because it will comfort you to know that you are a part of the college life that you always wanted.
The best advice I could give, in hindsight, is to experience a long-weekend at your college of choice. See if you can attend a course to know how typical classtime is spent. From here you can even compare your experiences over a few different colleges. This is what I did, and it ultimately made me realize that Marist College was the best choice for me. I realize where I fit in best for my personality and future pursuits. Lastly, spending a weekend at the colleges of choice permits you to make a valid opinion about an institution without the frills and propoganda the typical Open Houses or Campus Tours might give you.
Go there. Visit the campus and talk to the students-- NOT just the students paid in the Admission Office but the students around campus. See if you look like the students around campus-- do you fit in physically. Then see if you fit in mentally. Arrange a 'shadow day' where you can follow a student through his or her classes. You want to make every effort to ensure you'll be comfortable there, not just by the paper statistics that sounds good when you read them. Most of the time they're out of context, anyway. Do everything you can to experience the campus before committing yourself to the campus.
My college experience is one to rememeber. I enjoyed my last three years here to the fullest and am very excited to complete my final year here at Marist. It has been such a valuable experience to attend Marist because I believe I received my best potential learning experience here as well as a well balanced college life. Social life as well as athletic events are fun and great to be apart of. I really enjoyed my time here at Marist and if I could do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat. I am pretty jealous of the freshmen here and I hope they learn to love it just as much as I did.
To me, the most important aspect of finding the right college was how I felt during the initial visit to the school. I believe that most students have a "gut feeling" when they find the right college. As long as all the school fills most of your requirements, such as field of study, tuition costs, size, extra-curricular activities and financial aid, then you need to rely on your "gut". It is very important to feel accepted and welcome not only by other students, but by the faculity and staff. Having that right feeling will make you a stronger, more involved student.