This is the first installment of a four part series, in which we will explore how to effectively research schools.
Is there one perfect college for you? Maybe. Most likely, though, there are many schools that could be a great fit. Researching schools is a really important step in the process. Exploring the possibilities is so exciting! Begin early so you have time to set goals and map out a plan.
Start with an open mind. Think about different types of schools— size, setting and focus. Small, medium and large schools each have distinct characteristics to offer. What may be perceived as a plus by you may be seen as a negative by your friend. For example, some students will feel they can thrive in a large university while others may feel lost or overwhelmed. Large universities typically offer more majors, a wider variety of extracurricular activities and clubs, research opportunities and graduate programs and larger physical resources. Small schools offer greater access to faculty, small class sizes and a strong sense of community.
Schools in urban, suburban, and rural settings have a very different feel from one another — where do you see yourself? An urban school offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in a city. In fact, at some urban schools, there is no real boundary between the campus and the urban environment. Do you want easy access to museums, the arts, shopping? Are you looking for internship opportunities or a job off-campus? Part of the appeal of an urban school may be what the city has to offer and your interest in participating in those offerings. Rural schools are generally self-contained communities. Rural schools usually offer a greater sense of community. Rural settings may allow you to connect with nature and enjoy the outdoors. Suburban or small town schools may offer a little bit of both— they tend to be self-contained but with easy access to the surrounding community and offer a sense of camaraderie.
Schools have distinct missions— liberal arts, research, professional, or a combination. The main differences include: the range of majors, research opportunities, classes taught by professors versus teaching assistants or graduate students and graduate study opportunities.
Reflect on your high school experience and your local environment. Do you want a similar experience or are you looking for a change? Even if you think you know what type of school you want to attend, you owe it to yourself to look at what’s available.
Don’t limit yourself!