By narrowing your college choices by the spring of your junior year, you’ll be better prepared to apply for financial aid and college early in your senior year. Answering these questions will help you narrow your choices:
What do you want to study?
Think seriously about future career interests and then research colleges that fit those interests. Use college selection tools like College Profiles.
- Pursue job shadowing opportunities in your areas of interest.
What kind of school do you want to attend?
Do you prefer a large university or a small college? Are you interested in a community college? What kind of student/teacher ratio do you want?
What can you afford? Consider the overall cost of college: tuition, room and board if you choose or are required to live on-campus, books, transportation costs and personal expenses. Determine what you and your parents can afford to pay out-of-pocket and plan to apply for financial aid to make up the difference. Calculate the loan debt your family may need to incur for your college education.
Where do you want to go to college? Do you want to live close to home and commute? Do you want to be in a major city or a small town? How big of a factor is out-of-state or private school tuition? If you want to go out of state, investigate reciprocity programs such as the Midwest Student Exchange Program.
Avoid these college search mistakes:
Don’t limit your search to familiar institutions. Just because your parents or siblings went to a certain college doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you.
Don’t limit your search to colleges you think you can afford. The more expensive the school, the more financial aid you may be eligible to receive. Do some financial aid-related research (using net price calculators, talking to an EducationQuest specialist, or a representative from the college) before crossing these schools off your list.
Don’t choose a college just because it’s near your boyfriend or girlfriend. The school may not be a good match for you—and he or she may not be either!
Don’t insist on an out-of-state school just because you want to “get away.” Even if you attend college in your hometown, you can still “get away” by staying on campus most weekends.