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Four Things You Should Ask Yourself While Making Your College List

It’s never too early or too late to start making or refining that college list.

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You can start as early as freshman year of high school and refine it all the way up until you enroll at a school. Here are some questions you should ask yourself while making and finalizing your college list.

u of r

1. How far away am I willing to travel?

Or, for some of us with strict parents, “How far am I allowed to go?” This is a basic question that frequently gets over-looked but greatly impacts a students list. The location of a school should be one of the first things that students consider when they are searching because not only will that area be your home for the next four to six years but you will also have to travel to and from that place during breaks and vacations. If you live on the west coast but want to go to school on the east coast, it is important to keep in mind the cost of air travel and how frequently you can go home or respond to a crisis. If you live too close to home then will you be tempted to visit every weekend instead of learning independence. Or, do you want to achieve a middle ground that’s not too close but not too far?

2. How much am I willing to invest?

Many students with financial burdens believe that they cannot attend non-public institutions because they do not have enough financial support. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Both private and public schools offer merit and need-based financial assistant that lift some financial burdens. Use online aid calculators provided by your college of interest and determine if the estimate is within your financial range. Students who do not qualify for federal or state level aid should especially follow this step and discuss with their parents what is within the family’s financial abilities while making the college list.

You should also consider graduation rates, outcomes, and average starting salaries for graduates. This information combined with the cost of tuition will give you an idea of a school’s return on investment.

3. What do I want to study?

Imagine having to change your major or transfer out because the schools you applied to did not have any of the areas of study that you were interested in. It is hard to know what you will want to do in the future so I think the best way to approach this problem is to think about what you want to be available to you. Do you see yourself taking literature, poetry, or art classes? Then a technology school is probably not the best place for you to go and vice versa. If you know you are a STEM student then try to pick schools that have as many STEM majors available as possible.

Alternatively, if you have a wide variety of interests or seemingly disparate interests, choose a school with a flexible curriculum that will give you room to stretch and explore. The more you know what you want to do is the better for you in this case but make sure to leave yourself some other options if you decide to change your mind.

4. Do I want a small, medium, or large campus?

A small school is usually fewer than 5,000 students. A medium school is between 5,000 to 10,000 and a large school is greater than 10,000 students. It is important that students list the pros and cons of going to each type of school depending on their comfort zone. If you want to be able to know everyone in your graduating class, a large school might not be for you. If seeing the same people every day bores you then a small school might not be a good fit either. My high school has a little more than 5,000 students across only four grades so when picking schools, I knew exactly what it was like to see 5,000 people every day. I was able to determine that a medium-sized or small school would be better for me.

With these four basic questions, you should be able to create yourself a list of at least 12 to 20 schools to get started with. Whether you choose to apply to the University of Rochester or any other institution, I wish you the best of luck on your college journey!


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