Public, private, urban, suburban, rural, small, medium, large, research opportunities, liberal arts, East Coast, West Coast, somewhere in the middle, popular football teams, strong Business or Engineering programs, Greek life, study abroad programs, academic support systems, internship placement.
These and more are the criteria students will look for when building a college list. With over 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States, students have plenty of choices. But finding the right fit can be a challenge.
Here are a few areas to help you get started on building your college list:
1. Cost –Do you qualify for FAFSA? If you are not sure, visit FAFSA4Caster, a tool to help you figure out your financial aid options. Take note, many colleges recommend you complete the FAFSA even if you think you won’t qualify because there are still merit-based aid opportunities, and life circumstances could change dramatically over the course of a school year. Be prepared, just in case.
2. Location – The thought of moving far, far away seems adventurous but ask yourself if you are ready to make that move? Winters in Boston are not the same as California. Or, does being able to fly or drive home for a quick visit, a warm meal, and a load of laundry seems more comfortable? Do you want to attend a college out-of-state but can’t afford it? WUE colleges might be the solution to your problem.
3. Academics – I think it is safe to assume you will add colleges to your list that offer your intended major (remember, undecided is a major for entering freshmen!). But what about the learning environment? Do you want large classrooms held in lecture halls or intimate classes with 20 or fewer students that welcome open discussions? What about hands-on learning versus lecture style? Do you have learning differences and need additional support? Find the colleges that offer academic learning in an environment that works best for you.
4. Social – College isn’t just about learning. Finding a social environment is equally important. The experiences you have and the friends you make in college can be life-altering. Find colleges that will help you become the person you are trying to become through various clubs, activities, sports, or service programs.