3 Great Reasons to Choose a College

Building Your College List

When we help Juniors build their college lists, we talk a lot about priorities. “What are your top priorities for your undergrad years? What factors matter most to you?” And it’s fascinating to see the range of responses we receive! And while we feel whole-heartedly that each student must keep their own priorities front and center, we also steer students in a direction that we know is more likely to led to a successful college experience. Here are a few of the best reasons to choose a college:

1. A strong program in your major
Some students treat the college search like vacation planning, prioritizing a beautiful campus, nice weather and good food. While these things can contribute to a wonderful experience, we remind students that college is not an isolated phase in life, nor a 4-year vacation. Rather, it is a time to get an education that (hopefully) leads to a career.  The job world is competitive, so above all, your primary focus should be to attain the best preparation possible in your chosen field. The colleges you consider should not only offer excellent classes for your major, but also internships and practical experience. So I recommend beginning your search by determining which colleges actually have the major you are considering. What if you haven’t chosen a major? That’s ok – just be sure your colleges have at least several majors that appeal to you, or an exploratory program to help you discern your major.

2. The teaching matches your learning style
Colleges vary drastically in how their classes are structured, and sometimes there is a great deal of variation within a college.  Generally though, at smaller colleges you can expect smaller classes with more discussion. At larger colleges you can expect big lectures halls, with minimal student participation. Start by thinking about how you’ve learned best while in high school. When the teacher holds a class discussion, are you the one always raising your hand? Or do you prefer to sit quietly and take notes? Do you learn better by participating or by listening? Are you a hands-on learner? Or do you love to read and research? Once you’ve identified your learning style, focus on colleges where most classes will be taught in a similar manner.

3. You fit in there
This is a place where you’ll be spending the next 4-5 years of your life, so it’s critical that you can easily feel like a part of the community.  Start by looking closely at yourself and identifying what type of people you want to surround yourself with. Then, pay attention to the type of students each college is known for. For example, some colleges, like Reed and Berkeley, are known for students who are ambitious and competitive, while colleges like UC Santa Cruz and Goucher tend to attract students who value more social/academic balance. Colleges like University of Richmond and Vanderbilt have more politically conservative students, while places like Columbia and Bard are decidedly liberal. Target the colleges with students you’d feel most comfortable around. When you visit, look around and ask yourself, “Would I fit in here?” Try to imagine eating lunch with the other students, or studying in the library.

Also be sure to check out my post on 3 Reasons Not to Choose a College, or contact us if you’re interested in personalized guidance in researching colleges.