Clueless About College?

Here are a few tips about where to start and what to look for when looking for colleges!

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Clueless About College?

The entrance to Purdue University.

The entrance to Purdue University.

Lauren Watercutter

The entrance to Purdue University.

Lauren Watercutter

Lauren Watercutter

The entrance to Purdue University.

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Are you starting to look for a college and have absolutely no idea where to begin? Don’t freak out! Yes, it can be stressful looking for the place that you will call home for a few years after you leave high school, but it is not impossible. Here are my answers to some of the questions that you may have when looking for and deciding on a college.

Where Do I Start?

If you are clueless, start by going to a college fair. This event will have many different colleges all represented in one area so that you can get a good idea of different colleges in the area. “You have an opportunity to meet up with a lot of college representatives at one time and learn about a lot of schools,” said Ms. Regina Taylor, a guidance counselor at Woodford County High School. If you know what major you want to go into, start by searching for schools in our state and country that are known for the programs you are interested in.

What Do I Look At?

Academics

You want to go to a school that will give you the skills so that you can pursue that occupation.”

— Ms. Taylor

Be sure to pay attention to the type of academics that are offered at the schools that you are considering. If you know what major you want to go into, be sure that the college that you go to has the academic program that you are interested in. Also, look into the reputation of the school that you are going into. If a school has a good reputation, you may be more likely to get a job after you get your degree from the school. “You want to go to a school that will give you the skills so that you can pursue that occupation,” said Ms. Taylor.

Also, look into what resources are offered for you at the school. Time and time again I have heard that college is much more challenging than high school, depending on your major, and you are going to want good academic resources that are going to help you succeed in your academics. Ask about what they offer as far as counseling and tutoring. Also, ask if the professors have time set apart when they can meet with students who may be struggling and need help. Academic success is very important even after high school.

Affordability

Let me start by saying this, do not write off a school because it looks too expensive. From my experience, not all schools that seem to be expensive are going to cause you to be in debt for years. For example, the estimated cost for Vanderbilt University is $67,392. This is the most expensive school that I am currently looking in to. However, when I visited Vanderbilt during Fall Break, I found out that Vanderbilt is one of the highest-ranking schools in the country for financial aid. Not only that, but the financial aid they offer is not in loans, so many students graduate debt-free! 

On the other hand, you need to choose a school that you can afford. Student loans are something that you want to avoid as much as possible because these are going to affect you for many years after you graduate from college. “The idea is to graduate debt-free or with as little debt as possible,” said Ms. Taylor.

The idea is to graduate debt-free or with as little debt as possible.”

— Ms. Taylor

Size and Distance from Home

These two are both personal preferences that you must decide for yourself. Some people are more comfortable with a smaller school that doesn’t have as many people such as Asbury or Lindsey Wilson. Other people don’t like a smaller school and would prefer a larger school such as UK or UofL. There are many who may want a nice in between such as EKU or WKU. I would suggest that you visit multiple sizes to see what college size you feel comfortable with.

As far as the distance from home goes, this is also something that you need to decide. Do you want to go to a college that’s close to home, or would you rather go to a college that is farther from home? Or would you like to go to a college that is far enough from home, but also somewhat close to home?

Joanna Watercutter
While visiting UK, a few other visitors and I had the chance to have lunch with and talk to a few women who are involved in a club called SWE, the Society of Women Engineers.

Student Life

Since this is most likely going to be home for the next few years, you’re going to want to go somewhere where you know you can get involved. Find out what activities they have that are similar to what you enjoyed during high school. “If you’re going to live there, this will be home and you want it to be as close to home as that campus can provide,” said Ms. Taylor.

Sports can also factor into this, not just clubs. If you are athletically inclined, find a college that has the sport you want to play. However, I advise you not to make sports your top priority.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere and community at a school are very important. You want to find a school where the students enjoy being on campus. A few good questions that you can ask while you are at the campus are as follows: “Are students interacting with others? Are people involved in the campus community? Or are they just going home every weekend?” said Ms. Taylor. When students are more involved, they enjoy being on campus more than if they are not.

Lauren Watercutter
Students at Cedarville University in Ohio enjoy being in community with each other at chapel every morning from Monday to Friday.

Visiting campus is very important when looking at colleges so you want to pay attention to the community when you are there. Are students happy? How are you treated while you are on your visit? I found that the colleges in which people gave me more individual attention or where I noticed that the people were happy, were colleges that I was more drawn to.

Also, be sure to find out what the safety of the campus is like. A few good questions to ask or things to think about might be as follows: Do students feel safe? Does the campus have problems with violence or drug and alcohol abuse? Are there safety measures put in place for students? What does the campus do to make sure you are safe? You need to go somewhere where you will feel safe and not at risk.

Could It Be Home?

Arguably one of the most important factors that go into your decision is this: Could this college be home? If you are living on campus, then this new school will be your home for the next few years of your life. Therefore, you need to feel comfortable with where you decide to go. “It needs to be the right fit for you,” said Ms. Taylor. Don’t go somewhere that your parents or your friends want you to go to when you absolutely hate it. Go where you feel is truly the right place for you.

It needs to be the right fit for you.”

— Ms. Taylor

These are all very important factors in your college decision process. Be sure to visit each of your colleges and pay attention to all the different details. Good luck in your search for the perfect school for you!