5 Important Steps: How To Find The Right College For You
Written By: Robyn Shulman
Searching for a college?
Working in higher education has been an enlightening experience for me. Personally, I simply love higher education, the idea of it, the relationships that are made, and the process of growing, learning and self-reflection. However, during my time working in advising and listening to student feedback, I have come to notice that not many students take the right steps in locating the correct program or the best fitting school. Many students enroll based on website reviews, word of mouth, or because they were easily persuaded when calling for information. This lack of patience and research has lead many students down the wrong path, into financial debt, and possible unemployment. Please, don’t let this be you.
Here are some tips that you should take to ensure you are at the right college and enrolled in the right program:
1. Research Now: Do your research on the school for at least 6 months prior to applying. Doing research can mean any of the following: call the different departments of the school (financial aid, enrollment, admissions) to be sure you are receiving proper service, attention, kindness and accurate answers to your questions. Get a feel for how they treat you. Are they pushy or unavailable? Do they return your calls? Are they trying to persuade you in a manner that is unethical? If they are not treating you well now, imagine how they will treat you once they have your money in hand. Make sure the school is competent and attentive to your needs because you will need them.
2. Know your learning style: With all of the choices for higher education, it is imperative to know what type of learner you are. If you are not self-motivated, online classes may be challenging. If you like to engage with people live, on-site courses may be the better route. Maybe you would like a bit of both? Hybrid courses offer this option as well. However, think about the way you learn best to determine the program choice. There is not a one-size fits all program in education. We all learn differently. Don’t struggle. Take the time to know yourself.
3. Research the career outlook for your chosen field: Know your industry well, research current employment statistics, but most of all, if you are going into a career change, make sure you want to do the job. I have seen so many people go into a field simply because it may have higher employment opportunities and for other non-related reasons. Although future employment is one solid reason, it should only be ONE reason. If you know someone already working in the field, ask if you can shadow them to get a feeling for the role. If not, ask people in the field. Reach out to find out about the positives and negatives. You will be surprised at the response you receive. Most people like to talk about their profession in a mentoring fashion. Do not go into a program with blinders on, as you will end up wasting precious time and money.
4. Research many programs and contrast/compare: Compare colleges and make a list of pros and cons specifically for you only. Weigh the areas that are most important for your life personally. Some questions to consider: Does the class-scheduling meet my needs? What are the program expectations? Can I afford it now? How will this program affect the lives of those around me? Write down many questions and compare them across the board of the colleges you have chosen. Do not put all of your eggs in one basket.
5. Talk, visit and question: Visit the campus to get a feel of the way things are run and how they treat you as a possible future student. Usually, your instinct will tell you immediately if the college is a good fit or not. Talk to friends or others who have been in the program and/or attended the college. Speak to advisors, career counselors, and the admissions office. Test all of those offices because you will need them. Take note of the attention you are given and the service received. Do they treat you as a student, a customer or both? Remember, you are both a student and a customer. You should be treated with all due respect.