By Vanessa True
For high school seniors, the majority of their senior year is taken up, debating over which college to choose. Senior year is filled with emotional ups and downs when it comes to planning. Students will have discussions with friends, school counselors, peers, and family about how to plan out the rest of their life, starting with the college.
Here are my top five tips for choosing the best fit.
1. Get a head start
Getting a headstart means a lot of things. Get a headstart junior year and try your best on the ACTs and SATs because those help you in the long run. Even visit some schools your junior year. Once a school’s application date opens, start applying. Do not wait for regular decision deadlines to come; do early action. Early action relieves the stress of the “unknown.” You can even sometimes, depending on the college, get your acceptance letter sooner. Lastly, once you are accepted, apply for as many scholarships as possible, as well as applying for financial aid once FAFSA opens. This all will help your stress level senior year and let you enjoy to excitement on senior year more.
Before even visiting a college, research them to make sure that the college is a contender. Researching prices, majors, housing, and graduate rates, are all very important things to know before you make a visit. While I was college searching I researched colleges within Illinois and other states that participate in the Midwest Exchange, which offers discounted tuition rates based on where you live and which college you choose. This limited my range to what schools I was open to attending based on the financial aspect. Then, I researched for schools that were known for being excellent in my major, education. From there I followed the college’s social media accounts. That way, I could be updated on that college.
Everyone has a “dream” school that they have always wanted to go to. Sometimes those schools can have a very large tuition. While I was college searching I tried my best to combine my “dream” school with my budget in order to get the perfect place to spend the next four years of my life. During senior year, you quickly become aware of the cost of everything around you and the cost of your future. I began to feel the pressure of college price tags quickly, and it can become stressful. Set a budget and search within that budget, instead of finding the ultimate college campus. This put my worries at ease and made me more excited to head off to college.
Some students want to get out of town as quickly and as far away as possible as soon as they are handed their diploma. Knowing the distance that you, can handle is huge while searching for a college. Figure out if you are more of a homebody where a community college or closer college is a necessity, or if you could be someone who wants to explore and get out into the world where an out-of-state college is a priority. Remember you will be spending four or more years on that campus; you need to be comfortable with it.
5. Visit, maybe even multiple times
Never choose a school without visiting it. Pictures and videos of a campus do not paint a good enough picture of that school to make such a life-changing decision. While I visited my colleges, I would step foot on the campuses and get a feeling of “at home” or a feeling that it was not for me. College tours are essential because they show you how your life will be there. I do not know how many time as I was walking through my college that I thought “how strange is it to think I will be here in a year.” It is a unique feeling. Visiting your college doesn’t always mean a campus tour. You can request meetings with the major you are looking into. In those meetings, the college of your major will sit down with you and list available scholarships, programs, rewards, and requirements throughout all of four years within that major. Overall, trust those feelings of intuition that your mind and gut give you.
Most importantly enjoy senior year, it is a time that honestly flies by.