No two colleges are exactly the same. In fact, there are nearly 5,000 two- and four-year accredited colleges and universities in the United States. But thankfully, you just need to find the right one for you.
To do that, you need a process, so here are a few steps to consider that I’ve seen work time and again for students.
1. Determine your major.
If you can’t decide on a specific degree, at least narrow down the direction you want to head. I know it may seem hard, maybe close to impossible, to choose a major, but the effort is so worth it!
Ask yourself, “What am I naturally good at?” List everything you can think of — big things and small things. Then list five majors. Three majors should be what you think you want to do, and the other two should be majors that could interest you. Bring the information you’ve gathered and meet with someone you trust, a person who will help you objectively look at your research and help you shape that decision.
2. Get the right information.
The more specific or narrow your choice of a major is — the more research that may be required to identify the right school. On the other hand, if you want to major in computer science or become an elementary school teacher, for instance, you will find a lot of universities offering those majors in a specific way.
3. Narrow the field.
As you gather information, keep in mind the most important issue is location. Where your college is located might be just as crucial as considering where your first job might be. In fact, one may very well determine the other.
4. Involve your parents or guardians.
Once you’ve done your homework on choosing a major and college, it’s time to involve your parents in the decision-making process. This can be a very positive and exciting experience for you and your parents together!
5. Make contact with the university and plan a visit.
If at all possible, schedule an in-person visit — ideally on a preview weekend. And if you are unable to schedule a visit in person, learn as much as you can about the campus online. Sometimes, they have a virtual reality tour.
My biggest advice in applying for colleges is this: don’t procrastinate! After all the work you’ve done to narrow down your choices, don’t reduce your chances for acceptance and financial aid by waiting too long to apply. And most importantly, make sure you meet the critical deadlines.
7. Apply for scholarships.
The earlier you start applying, the better. By starting early, you can take advantage of scholarships that are unique, creative, or cater to your extra-curricular activities and skills. This also gives you ample time to overcome any obstacles you face during the application process.
You can do this! The right college and the money to attend it are waiting for you — and I completely believe your efforts will yield great success.