Thinking about college is exciting for most students, but the uncertainty of choosing a major and the “right” college can be overwhelming.
The good news is no one expects you to know today what field you’ll be working in down the road. But weighing your options, knowing what to look for in a college, and how to successfully navigate the process are the first steps. Whether you are a parent contemplating your child’s future, a high school junior just starting to look at colleges, or looking to transfer―we’ve done some of the homework for you by suggesting our top 10 ways to help you choose the best college for you. So, sit back, take a deep breath and consider the following:
1. Think about what you love (and don’t love)
What lights you up inside? What areas of study have you enjoyed and excelled at? The best starting point when researching a college is to review its academic degrees and reputation in the field. Most freshmen are undecided on a major, but having a game plan to find the right fit for you can help take the stress out of the process.
2. Big or small―not all colleges and universities are the same
Think about your personality and if you would feel happier on a large campus surrounded by thousands of students, or on a smaller, more intimate campus.
It’s also important to consider your learning style. Larger universities tend to have hundreds of students taking their core classes in stadium-style classrooms, or even online. Some students thrive in a more autonomous environment. Other students may prefer smaller classes. It all depends on what makes you most comfortable.
3. Set your sights high
Education experts agree you should look outside your comfort zone when applying to college. When researching your options, familiarize yourself with the college’s GPA guidelines, SAT and ACT score requirements, as well as application deadlines. Don’t limit yourself to just the colleges you feel you can be accepted to. It’s advisable to apply to at least two or three colleges, with one of them being a “reach”. You never know unless you try, so go for the unexpected. You may be surprised at the results.
4. Location, location, location
Think about how close you want to be to home. Will you thrive if you have your family close by, or are you O.K. with being an airplane ride away?
Setting plays a big role. For example, students who have lived in a rural area their entire life might want to break away and attend a college in an urban location. Other considerations include the social climate of the town. Is it a “party college” with a bustling environment or is it located in a quiet, secluded area?
Another important factor to consider is your field of study and related jobs in the area. Vaughn College aviation students, for example, have the best of both worlds. Not only can they study a wide range of fields including aviation, aviation maintenance, aeronautics, engineering and avionics at one of the top colleges in the nation, but the campus is located steps away from New York’s La Guardia Airport and major employers in the New York metro (learn more about our history with these airports here) area looking to hire recent graduates in related fields.
5. Go on college tours
Seeing is believing. Researching colleges and universities online or reading about them in fancy brochures is one thing, but experiencing the campus firsthand and meeting faculty one-on-one through campus tours is the best way to get a real feel for the college (most colleges, like Vaughn College, have Open Houses or one-on-one visits). It’s also an important step in the process for your family, as it is a great way for them to see where you’ll be living for the next four years.
6. Affording it all
The thought of paying for a college education may seem out of reach, but the good news is there’s money out there to help you pay for the costs. There are government grants and scholarships, which is money you don’t have to pay back. There is also the option of government-funded student loans offered at lower-interest rates. Even better news to consider is knowing that many private colleges offer generous financial aid packages to qualifying students as a means to offset the costs.
So, don’t let the price factor deter you from applying to your dream college. At Vaughn College, for example, 90 percent of the students qualify for some form of financial aid.
7. Check out the application process
You may have heard stories from friends about the acceptance or rejection letters they received. The truth of the matter, however, is that most colleges and universities have a higher admittance rate than rejection rate. That’s not to say that some colleges are more selective than others, but knowing this fact going in can help you prepare ahead of time by not putting all of your eggs in one basket. By having other options, you may end up being finding a college that is a better fit.
Vaughn College offers the convenience of “on-the-spot application decision” to students with all the required materials. Students are encouraged to schedule a one-on-one appointment where an admissions officer will review their transcript and offer them a decision on the very day of their visit.
8. It’s never too late to learn
There’s no handbook saying you must attend college straight out of high school. Some students decide to take time off to travel or for personal reasons. Admissions officers will embrace the opportunity to hear about your experiences, so don’t fear that you’re too old or that it’s too late to apply. The truth is it’s never too late to learn.
Be sure to check out a college’s academic, campus and student life. Important factors to research include the strength and experience of the faculty, easy access to resources, social clubs, sports programs, Greek life, and campus amenities such as on-campus housing and meal plans. These are an essential part of college experience and can make or break your time. Doing your research today can save you time and money down the road. As mentioned earlier, it’s all about finding the best fit for you.
10. Talk to Alumni
Did you ever say to yourself, “Wow, he or she has the best job. I wish I could do that.”? Well, just know that your dream may be closer than you think. They started out just like you―with the same questions, uncertainty and maybe even fears. The good news is they did it and so can you.
Let us introduce you to just a few Vaughn graduates who are living their dreams―dreams which may be just like yours:
Erika Barcenes – Class of ’13 – Bachelor of Science in Aircraft Operations
Jefferson Maldonado– Class of ’16 – Bachelor of Science in Mechatronic Engineering