Tips and Tricks from an Admissions Counselor: Making the Final College Choice
Hi y’all! This is Caitlin Kirby, and I’m super excited to be back with another blog and would love to share some tips on what you should be considering as you work to make that final college choice. As someone who was once applying to college not too long ago, the one thing I remember throughout the whole process was that I felt overwhelmed. Besides balancing my academics, social life, and other activities, I now had this other time-stealing activity that ultimately just stressed me out. Further, as a first-generation student, I had no clue what I was doing, let alone how to make such a big decision as to where I wanted to spend my next four years. It is my hope here that I can help ease that stress just a little bit by making a quick checklist of things you should consider in making that final choice. While not an all-encompassing list, these are the important parts of a higher education institution that will impact your time the most. It is important that these fit you as a person and are pieces that can add to your experience at college rather than hinder your growth. With that being said, let’s dive into it!
I put this at the top because while an unfortunate reality, college campuses can’t grow legs and move around. The city or town that your college is in is the place you’ll be calling home for the next four years. It’s important that you feel comfortable there, whether that be through safety or things to do nearby. Alongside this, what does transportation look like? Can you have your car on campus? Are there public transportation options if you can’t have a car? Beyond just the basics of a location, it is also important to consider it because of the academic opportunities certain locations provide. Does the location have access to great internships and research opportunities you could explore? Location is by far the most important thing to consider as you are making your final college choices. While a college may be just a few buildings in their city, the city and the community that surrounds those buildings have lasting impacts on a college and its students.
- Size and Community
While the size of the campus is also a factor you should consider, I’m talking about the size of the student body here. The choice between a big school with over 20,000 students versus a school with 2,000 or fewer means you are choosing the community you want to live in. Big schools are typically state schools, meaning that you’re going to see hundreds of majors to choose from, a variety of different housing options, and a more spread-out community. On the other hand, small schools mean just the opposite: fewer majors to choose from (but often the chance to build your own), fewer housing options, and a more tight-knit community. My advice here is to tour both big and small schools’ campuses. Through this, you’ll be able to begin unraveling whether you would fit well into that type of community. Overall, size plays an important role in your academics as well. This could impact whether a professor or their TA teaches your classes as well as if your class is made up of over a hundred students or fifteen. It is important that you decide on a college whose community you will best thrive in.
- Tuition and Scholarships
Finances are another huge factor to consider as they are likely something you will take with you post-grad through loan repayments. Look to see what tuition is like and if that is manageable for your family. Consider applying to scholarships that the school offers and look to see if there are other opportunities for scholarships later down the road. While it’s not the most fun conversation to have, sit down with your parents/guardians to talk about how you can make your finances work for each school you are considering. A personal tip I’ll throw in here is to consider the difference in tuition based on if your school is public or private. Public schools typically have lower tuition rates for in-state students while out-of-state students pay more. On the other hand, private schools typically have a higher tuition rate, but it is the same for all the students that attend, and they can include pieces like study away and counseling in that price tag so that you don’t have additional costs down the road. All-in-all, finances are an important piece to consider, as they can have lasting impacts beyond your time in college.
I mean, college is where you’re supposed to learn right? The academics at the school you choose are key to your pathway post-grad. Does the college have the majors you want to study? How accessible are study away, internships, and research opportunities in your undergraduate career there? Making sure that your final college choice has what you are looking for within these fields is extremely important. Just imagine how upsetting it would be if you enrolled at a university just to find out they didn’t have the academic field you were passionate about. Take the time to research what the academics look like at each of your choices and imagine yourself getting involved in the engaged learning opportunities that they provide. For me, studying away was a defining factor in colleges I was looking at because, as the only member of my family to have been out of the country, I knew I wanted that opportunity readily available to me. However, maybe you don’t care so much about studying away but instead want to ensure that you have the option to do research as an undergraduate student. For some universities, that’s an opportunity for graduate students only. Take the time to explore academics and find what you could get involved with as a student there.
- Student Life
Not to contradict me from above, but not all of college is based on academics. Student activities and organizations will play a major role in your social life on campus. One thing I always encourage high school students to look at is if the college has clubs that are similar to what they are involved with now. That way, you know there is always a place you can go to meet new people while feeling safe in an environment that you are already familiar with. Student life can be a wide variety of things but here are a few that are standouts:
- Club and Intramural Sports
- Greek Life
- Community Service Opportunities
- Work-Study Opportunities
- Religious Organizations
- Diversity Organizations
- Music, Theatre, and Art Organizations
While there are many other branches of student life, it is important that the ones available at your college suit your hobbies and interests. Make a point to skim a list of clubs that you can get involved in as a student as it’ll help with picturing yourself there.
- Post-Grad Success
Finally, the last piece that I believe needs to be on this checklist is the post-graduate success of students who went to that school. Are they getting jobs immediately after graduation or is there a lull in time where alumni are struggling to find jobs with that school’s degrees? If you are interested in graduate school after your four years at your undergraduate institution, make sure you look at those statistics as well. Furthermore, I would encourage you to take a glance at their alumni network and how much emphasis the college places on building it up. Networking with alumni is a great way to explore job opportunities after graduation, so if that is something that is of interest to you, make sure your school has it. Your time in college goes by fast, so it is important that you make sure that your post-grad experience has been set up successfully by your college while you were a student there.
As I mentioned earlier, this is not an all-inclusive list. It is, however, a reminder of the big pieces of each college that you need to consider as you work to make your final choices. Throughout this whole process, I would encourage you to keep an open mind and stay diligent in your research, as it could make or break the next four years of your journey as a student. If you have stumbled across this blog because you are considering Furman within that final list of colleges, please know that I and the other admissions counselors are always open to questions you may have about our campus. We know that the college process as a whole is difficult, and we would love to help you however we can. With that being said, I wish you all good luck as you narrow down your options and work to find the college campus you can call home!
Furman University ’22