Some students know exactly what they want in a college. They know about size, location, majors offered, most popular sports, and what kind of coffee shop the school must have.
Most students, however, just aren’t sure where to start with their college search. A big school has advantages. So does a small school. Maybe it would be fun to go to college in a big city. Maybe the tight community of a small liberal arts college is nice. With all of these choices, it’s easy to feel intimidated.
One place to start is to visit schools. Do you live in an area that has a college? Are you traveling near a college? Sign up for a tour even if you aren’t interested. Don’t worry about school-specific things. Instead, try to make generalizations from your visit. Say one school has terrific athletic facilities. Maybe that goes on your wish list. Say another school has locally sourced vegan food. Maybe, since you’re an environmentalist, that’s a “must-have.” Say another school seems to have science labs everywhere you turn but you want to major in poetry. Maybe big sciences are a “don’t want.”
Think of these visits not as “do I like this school” trips. Instead, think in broad categories. Once you’ve walked down that city street, heard the taxi cabs driving by, and smelled the spices from the restaurant next door you’ll know if an urban campus is your thing. Once you’ve heard a student playing guitar in the stairwells, seen a student art exhibit, and felt the fabric of a designer’s new creation you might know if an art school is your thing.
Your college search involves a lot of smaller decisions that will add up to one big choice. Visiting lots of different kinds of schools will give you experiences that can’t be found in a college brochure or virtual tour.