Guest Post: 9 Tips to Guide You in Choosing a College

how-to-choose-a-college

Happy Thursday, everyone. Today I’m bringing you an exciting, college-themed post from Steven of My College Adventures. He and I have teamed up to share our insights with you all. On his blog, I talk about my journey to finding my program of study as well as the biggest  piece of advice I would give my freshman year self. I won’t gab any longer – Steven has some seriously great tips for those who are in the process of selecting a college. If you know anyone who is currently in the middle of this process, I encourage you to pass this information along to them to help ease their mind!


Hello everyone, I’m Steven Lin, one of the co-founders of My College Adventures. I’m currently a freshman in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. I’m planning on double majoring in Marketing and Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship, hopefully (and most likely) this won’t change, but who knows! My post below will hopefully add to Kristine’s “Little Box of Tricks” and if not, you can add them to someone you know who might be stressing over this whole college thing!

Here’s some food for thought: compare choosing between colleges like choosing between your favorite ice cream flavors at your favorite ice cream store. All the flavors look so enticing: vanilla, moose tracks (my personal fave), mint chocolate chip, strawberry etc. Here’s the catch – you can only choose one. Choosing between your list of colleges is just as hard. Luckily, here are 9 tips to help make your decision a bit easier.

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Does This Institution Support Your Interests?

This seems like a no brainer, and although the tips aren’t listed in order of importance, this definitely has to be the most important. Don’t even think about going to a college if it doesn’t have what you’re thinking of studying. The more passionate you are about what you’re studying, the more likely you are to succeed. Your interests are bound to change as you grow, but your goals in life usually stay the same. So if you’re a bit clueless about your interests right now, don’t sweat it, take the time to sit down and write about your goals: short-term and long-term. If you can focus on those  goals, you can use them to guide you throughout your journey.

Does This Institution Adhere to Your Values?

Choose a college that reflects on you and your values. All of our values will differ, but make sure you know which ones are the most important to you. Does the college align with your religious affiliation or has policies that can exempt you to celebrate your religious holidays? Does the college’s mission statement appeal to you? Does their educational approach appeal to you? These are just the few questions you can ask yourself before you answer the big question, but just remember, this decision is about YOU.           

Does This Institution Cost a Pretty Penny?

If you didn’t know this yet, college is expensive. According to (www.collegedata.com), the average cost for college per year is $9,401. That’s quite a chunk of change and don’t forget, this number varies depending on the type of college (private, public, community), your major, if you’re in state or out of state… the list goes on. For the few that don’t have to worry about money, awesome! Pick the best college for yourself. For the many of us that do, look at the price tag and see if you can get it down. Apply for all the scholarships and financial aid that you are eligible for. Don’t just look at the ones provided by your school! There are many scholarship search websites like Unigo and Cappex, you just have to do a bit of digging. The last thing to keep in mind is the VALUE of your education. Ask yourself what you are paying for. Is it the education? The place? The experience? Then ask yourself if X amount of money is worth paying for these factor(s).

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Will This Institution Open Doors For Great Opportunities?

Don’t look at your college education as an end goal, instead look at it as a “means-to-an-end” goal. If your ultimate goal is just to graduate college, then you have no plan to develop and continue to grow yourself in the future. Pick out a college that will offer you plenty of opportunities to explore your interests. Often times, colleges are well known for certain programs: journalism, engineering, music, science etc., so pick a school that aligns their strengths with your interests, values and goals, so after you graduate, you have plenty of opportunities to build your future.

If You’re Looking at a Large University, Is There a School That’s Right For You?

Don’t worry, iff this doesn’t make any sense to you right away. I didn’t figure it out until most deadlines were just a few days away. Each university (eg. Indiana University, University of California – Davis) has specific schools within them (eg. Kelley School of Business, UC Davis School of Medicine). When you apply, try to research these specific schools and apply to them during your application process to the university. Otherwise you will usually be put into the usual College of Arts and Sciences, where most freshman go and have to reapply to these specific schools after your first few years in college as part of the major-declaration process. Many times, the rankings of the specific schools far outrank the actual universities. For example Indiana University is ranked around 70th among US universities, but the Kelley School of Business is consistently Top 10. So even though you might be in a top 100 university, you’re in a top 10 program, which adds a lot of value to your education.

Does This Institution Provide a Community and Environment That You Enjoy?

If there’s one thing for sure, college students have a lot of pride in their school. So wherever you end up, be prepared to be immersed in this amazing cultural experience. But each community and environment varies across campuses. Some of them are very sports heavy, others have a focus on art. You just have to decide which of these environments that you enjoy the most and will thrive in.

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Do You Already Love the Campus or Will You Need to Learn to Love it?

I’ve never been on a campus visit. I was applying all over the country so I really didn’t have the time or money to visit all of them. However, I did as much online research as I could on each campus to make sure I loved them, or could at least learn to love. I scourged all the YouTube videos I could find of the universities I applied to and Google Imaged them at least 10 times each. Here’s the problem, every university is beautiful in its own way and I fell in love with all of them. But I’ve learned this through my strenuous search, the actual place is much better than the pictures. If you have the chance, go visit at least your dream school. Otherwise, don’t worry too much about the campus, they are all beautiful in their own way, sometimes it might just take longer to find it. Me? I fall in love with Indiana University every day I walk back and forth to my classes just admiring the buildings, the trees and their squirrels. Even if you don’t absolutely love your campus at first sight, you’ll be sure to slowly fall in love with it if you give it time.

Are You Solely Focusing on the Statistics?

Please. Please. Please do not do this to yourself. Do not let your friends, family, and most of all yourself, stress yourself out about rankings and going to a top notch school. You are going to college for YOU – not for anyone else. Get in a program that will challenge and shape you, but also allows room for success and growth. Many of the students going to top schools end up dropping out because they weren’t ready for that challenge. And where do they end up? Back to the schools that “weren’t good enough for them.” Don’t fall into this trap. Although stats are important, do not use this as your only deciding factor for college.

Are You Truly Keeping an Open Mind?

Be objective and open-minded. If you don’t let people in to help you, or see every moment as an opportunity, you’ll never know where you could be. Listen to those who have already been through this experience and talk to those who are experiencing it now. College is going to be one of the most important, transitional times of your life. Don’t blow it because you were closed-minded and passed up on all your opportunities.

Good luck with everything college related!

Feel free to comment any other tips below that I may have forgotten and don’t forget to share to save a lost, high school senior’s life. For other goodies college-related, come check out my blog: My College Adventures and follow us on Instagram, where we have someone from a different university take it over for a week and show you around their campus!

What is your biggest tip for high school seniors in selecting where they will attend college?

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25 thoughts on “Guest Post: 9 Tips to Guide You in Choosing a College

    • My Little Box of Tricks says:

      I’m so glad to hear you’ll be using this post. Personally, I could not stress enough how important it is to visit the campus – you also get to talk to people who actually go there and work there. I found that the most helpful!

  1. Michelle says:

    These are great tips! I think it’s so helpful to make sure to visit a couple schools before you apply–so you’ll know whether you prefer a big or small campus feel!

  2. Tiffani says:

    Im the total opposite. I didn’t look in to any of these things when I picked my school. I only really cared that it was close enough that I could keep my current job, and of course, that they had what I wanted to study!

  3. Geraldine says:

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