Are you about to embark on the college admissions process? Are you asking yourself, “Where do I start?”
What college do I want to attend? How far away from home do I want to go? What do I want to major in? Do I want to attend a public or private university? Do I want to be in a big city or someplace more rural? Is school spirit important to me? What type of community do I want? Andddd the list goes on.
Aside from ‘Y’ being the 25th letter of the alphabet, ‘Why’ is a very important question to ask yourself when you are selecting a college. Why do I want to go to college X?
One of the MOST important questions you should ask yourself before starting your journey is the age-old question: “what do I want to be when I grow up?” It seems like a silly question at first, but, the main reason people choose to go to college is to pursue their career goals.
Also, depending on your career aspirations, you can further narrow down your college options (and thus, application fees!). For example, if you’re interested in theatre or performing arts as a career, you will most likely want to attend college in a city known for its performing arts (NYC, LA, Boston, Washington D.C.), so you can learn from established faculty, intern at theaters or studios in the area, and build a fabulous network with your school’s alumni and other artists.
Once you decide on a career path, ***(and don’t worry if you haven’t!! Many colleges allow students to enroll as an “undecided” major, and declare one before their third year.)*** Other factors to consider: location, cost, alumni network and relations, job placement and internships, and any other personal attributes you are specifically looking for in your college experience.
LOCATION: For many students, location plays a big role in deciding which colleges to apply to (and which one to ultimately attend). You will be studying, working hard, making connections, and living your life at college for the next four years.
You want to be in a place that makes you happy, as the right attitude will help open many doors, personal and career-wise, for your future self. This is why you should visit most, if not all, of the colleges on your list before applying. You may love the school and surrounding area after you tour, or you may hate it. If you hate it, you do not have to apply.
While on your tour, speak with current students about their experiences. Ask them where most students live over the course of four years, what clubs and organizations are available to join, what do students do in their free time, what internship or work opportunities are available, if there is a career counseling center and how helpful it is, and one thing they love about the school and one thing they wish to change about the school. Speaking with current students will be your best gauge into the school itself, including the environment, course load, and extracurricular opportunities offered to you.
It is also important to speak with admissions staff, as they will be able to better answer questions regarding career outcomes and job placements per each graduating class as well as if students have the ability to contact alumni, and the office of financial aid, as they will provide information regarding scholarships, cost of attendance, and other cost-related questions.
COST: The cost of college is another important factor to consider when applying. There are many expenses besides tuition to think about. If you are planning to move away to college, you will have to consider, rent, utilities, food, insurance, and other miscellaneous daily and monthly expenses.
If you will be using a car, you will need to consider car payments, insurance, gas, and any potential maintenance and repair costs. If you plan on using public transportation, those costs will need to be factored in, as well. These are a few of the basic, universal costs for college students, but depending on your personal situation, you may have more or less expenses than the above. Many colleges have financial aid offices that will be more than happy to sit down with you and help determine your monthly expenses and how much money you will need each semester.
Speaking with the financial aid office is also important to determine how to best finance your education. They can speak about the differences between funding options, such as scholarships vs. grants vs. loans, and resources to apply for different types of funding. They are also very knowledgeable about FAFSA, loan disbursements, entrance and exit interviews, and how to minimize debt.
ALUMNI NETWORK/RELATIONS: A strong alumni network/relations can be very important in securing your future dream job. Alumni that work in your desired industry can provide you with more insight into the field, companies that are hiring, specific courses and/or certifications that will help you stand out in the applicant pool, and a potential reference or letter of recommendation. Alumni can also recommend you to other alumni that can help you reach your career goals.
Many schools have alumni events on campus or trips to different states and cities, such as New York City, to meet and network with alumni in those cities. It is important to attend these events to meet and greet with the alumni, learn about the specific companies that are being highlighted, and discover more about the location. The Office of Admissions at each school should be able to give you more information about their specific alumni relations network and events.
A strong alumni network is an asset that you should exhaust fully. And remember, once you graduate, you will be a part of the alumni network and have the ability to give back by helping future students reach their career aspirations!
JOB PLACEMENT: Getting a job is a big reason why many students go on to college. Some students know the exact industry, company, and job title they want. Others may not. However, all students should ask the Office of Admissions for statistics on their past two or three graduating classes. IE: what percentage of students graduate with a job offer? Which fields do the graduates enter? Which companies recruit and do the graduates work for? Seeing how many graduates find employment before graduation can either solidify your decision to attend this school or look for another school.
College is truly a place to personally learn and grow. With all of the colleges in America, as well as abroad, there is that “ FIT” for you – the one that has a major in your desired field, strong ties with alumni in the area and all over the world, a high job placement rate in your desired career, opportunities to explore new things, people who want to see you succeed, and a location that makes you happy. Coupled with an amazing community whereby you will build long lasting friendships and develop strong faculty relationships. Some of my best relationships now are with students who I have helped along the way and now they are successful, happy young professionals who are eager to give back to my current students. This circle of life is what truly reminds me of the significance and importance in my job. I am so proud to be a part of each student’s journey! Carpe Diem!
If you would like to learn more about college and how to begin your journey today, please contact Mara Patti, Founder of One2One College Consulting, at Mp.firstname.lastname@example.org
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