If you ask a high school senior about how the college application process is like, the response you’ll generally receive is “treacherous”. And that’s because in all likelihood, it is. Applying for colleges is a necessary pain for high school seniors looking for higher education, which of course is expected to help us get a higher paying job. The process is very time consuming, costly, repetitive, and similar in ways to a job application, and it is all done in the hopes of the opportunities a college degree has to offer.
There is a lot of decision making involved on each end of the application process. Whether you want to attend a college close or far, big or small, reputable or relaxed. Other important factors involve which degree you want and whether the college provides good education in that specific field, and not just a good general education. It all ultimately will come down to what you prefer, and what can be afforded.
As a student in New York, I applied mainly to in-state public SUNY schools. State schools have a large benefit for students to attend because they are far less expensive than private, or out of state colleges. Plus they have the benefit of being able to come home for the breaks by bus, train or car, as opposed to a plane ride. I reiterate that it is important to understand your preferences. College, and life in general, is all about decisions, and deciding what you want in a college is of course the first step in applying to college.
It is important to know what you’ll want to be doing in your off time, as well as your studying time while in college, so you should look at what there is to do in the areas around colleges you look at. If you’re going to be spending most of your time on campus, make sure your campus has the facilities to keep yourself maintained and entertained, as well as places to gather and socialize. If you prefer to hit the town in your off time, you’ll need to make sure your college has a surrounding town, and isn’t isolated on the fringe of civilization.
The size of the school is very important as well. If you want a more social, city-type environment, normally with bigger classes, a large school will be good for you. If you prefer smaller classes and more attention, a small college will be good for you, however, smaller colleges generally offer a much more limited variety of majors. Also be sure to read the personal experiences of college goers, and perhaps look up crime rates for the areas surrounding campus. The social scene and activities to do there are also very important to consider though. For example; if the only thing to do in the area with friends is ski, you better like skiing.
After you’ve made all these decisions of what you want, you have to pick where to go. The application generally costs $50 to $75 and involves filling out a lot of seemingly useless information, but after wasting all that time filling it out, all you have to do is wait. I did early action as I did not want to have to sweat and worry everyday about where I’m going to college and where I’ll be rejected or accepted all the way until April. I am happy I submitted my application early, and highly recommend it, as it gave me time to relax starting in January.
I personally had wanted to go to a college with a large number of kids (upwards of 10,000), but was not accepted to my top schools. I ended up at a mid-size school with several thousand kids but I am still very happy with it. My parents did not want me to go to a school so far away, but I could not allow them to make my decisions for me. Of course my parents would want me to stay close, but one of my decisions I made as an adult is deciding to go out into the world and learn how to live truly independently. I believe that being far away from the parents for a while is part of the college experience and gives young adults a chance to understand how to function well on their own.
The main deciding factor for me ultimately was the distance away from home the college was. I wanted to be far away from my parents, and thankfully I now have the opportunity to be. Once I received my acceptance there was no greater relief. And to parents; don’t stress about your kids being far away. Learning how to live away from you is all part of growing up. As for students: Don’t just apply where your friends are applying. Most of them don’t know what they want to do, it is important to figure out what is right for you.