Finding the right school is an important decision, but the right school isn't necessarily the most expensive or most prestigious school you can (or can't) afford. I would say that the most important components are: 1) the student will receive a quality education that will make him or her competitive in his or her field upon graduation, and 2) the student enjoys his or her time in college. I'm not saying that college should all fun and games or that you should enjoy it at all times, but on the whole the student should have a minimum quality of life such that they are not miserable for four long years. How to find such a college? I would suggest doing your homework online first (researching schools, financial aid, sports, clubs, etc) and then visiting a few of the top choices. A visit can be a powerful tool to shed light on a bad school that seemed perfect up until that point. Try to talk to people who have attended the school and see what they think of it: did they enjoy their time? are they proud they attended said school? do they feel knowledgeable in their field?
The obvious advice that some people don't take is to actually visit the campus not only for a day tour but to take the opportunity to shadow a current student for 1-2 days during the school week. It's best to shadow someone who will be in the same major as your intended major and to play the same sports/ engage in the same extracurricular activities as you. I would also look at the class size, student body size, campus location, majors, abroad programs available at the school. Also, if that particular school does not have something offered that you wish it did, you can ask if they have mutual agreements with other colleges in the area to offer classes or programs to each other's students. For my school, tuition is free, so in regards to school loans and financial aid applications, I cannot give any advice with experience to back it up but do make sure that it is an education worth the price tag at the end of the day. Many colleges have better reputations than educational value in my opinion so make sure it is the right learning environment for you! Good luck!
The most difficult part of the transition to college life is time management. Even with the most difficult high school courses including Honors, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate do not compare to the demands of educators at highly prestigious academic institutions. In order to manage a demanding workload including 4 or more of these classes, you must maximize the use of your time. If you are struggling in a particular field, align your study plan with the professor's office hours schedule and take advantage of their knowledge and expertise. Also, focus more of your time into classes which you are struggling with. If you personally track every grade you earn and continuously track your expected grade in each class, you can easily identify which subjects which need your attention and can also identify how you perform on different types of assignments. You may ace most quantitative assignments, but perform poorly when writing research papers. This knowledge also gives you the ability to plan your future course load to your advantage.
There?s a lot of different advice I would give to a student about finding the right college. If you are driven and looking for a school to push you, a military academy is a good fit. If you are unsure about your college experience and want your studies to range over a large spectrum with a relaxed learning environment and time to chose an area of study- a military academy is not for you. You have to be ready for the structure that will soon consume your life. Going to a military academy is a sacrifice with benefits. You have a job immediately after college, which is hard to come by in the current economy. You can be 22 years old with college loans, a job, and on your way to purchasing your first house. You are ahead of the curve. The best overall advice I can give is for athletes. If you play a sport, do not choose a school that has the best program, unless you have the ability to be a professional athlete. Look for the athletic program that will help you get into the best school academically and set you up for success after college.
I would tell parents and their prospective students to, no pun intended, do your homework. Make sure you find out all you can about a school before you commit to it. Stay overnight with students already attending, and ask them questions. Visit the campus as many times as you feel is necessary. Also, if you do well in high school, the college acceptance process is much easier. Better grades mean a better school; however, don't just focus on grades alone. In high school, do your best to be a well-rounded student. Participate in extra-curricular clubs, sports, and community service projects. Some of this can also help make up for sub-par grades. My last bit of advise would be to start early. The college search can be stressful, but if it is started earlier (end of junior year/beginning of senior year) the amount of stress can be decreased, or at least spread out. Finally, don't let other people decide for you. If your heart isn't in it, you will most likely be miserable at whatever institution you choose.
Even if you are not sure about looking at a particular school, you might as well just see what they have to offer. It could be better than whatever your first choice school has. Look at schools that are very similar to your first choice as well. Don't be afraid to move out of state or across the country. A lot of schools have summer programs or college visit days throughout the year, so it is always a good idea to check out if the school you like has a program like that. You may get to see the typical everyday life of a student that you wouldn't normally get to see on a tour or summer visit. Once you get to your particular college, join a sports team or a club to be as involved as possible! Even a dull or difficult school can be turned into one of the best experiences of your life if you have the closest friends you have ever had. You need interaction with people who are like you as well as people you are very different from because you will have to deal with it for the rest of your life.
When beginning the college application and selection process students should not over or under compensate. This is to say, they shouldn't apply to too many or too few colleges. Students and parents should work together to select a group of colleges to apply to that, should the student get accepted, they are willing to visit and gather further information on. It is especially important that the decison to attend a college not be made without visiting the campus as well as meeting with both students and alumni. Don't rely too much on ratings to aptly depict whether or not a student wil be happy there. Ratings are a good tool to use to decide on which colleges to apply to, but should not be the reason a student attends a particular college.
Choosing a college is a very important and hard decision. However, I would give these few simple tips when trying to decide where to go to school. First of all you must realize what means the most to you. For instance, if being close to home is really important to you, then you should try to narrow the schools that are close. In other words, try and organize the factors that you most want in your school and rate them on what is most important. This way you can really understand what kind of school you are looking for and eliminate the ones that don't work for you.
Be mature, think about your future and not what you are doing rightnow. Sports are fun now, but they will not get you a job later in life. Go to a school that offers the best academics and that is very prestigious. Always do your best and never limit yourself to lower standards. Be strong, be thoughtful, and be innovative! And most importantly, love the ones who love you!
Decide what you (seriously) want to to at college and what you want to get out of your experience there. Pick the college that fits what you want, not because of its name. Also, VISIT the school and talk to random students who are not a part of any organized tour/information program. The students are the ones who really understand the atmosphere of the campus.