Selecting a college is an extremely specialized process that truly differs for every person. What is, however, universal is trying to find a place that makes you feel at home, where you think you could spend the last few years of your childhood and the first few years of your adulthood. There are so many factors that have to be considered when choosing colleges to which to apply and subsequently to go.
One of the factors is the size. Everyone has to choose whether they want a school where they could learn every student’s name or whether they want to be lost in a sea of college students. Some people crave the excitement and the anonymity at schools with thousands upon thousands of people, whereas others can’t stand the thought. With bigger schools, there are potentially more options, more opportunities to explore, but it might also result in fewer options for research or getting to know individual professors with the larger class sizes. Smaller schools tend to have smaller classes, more discussion-based learning time, and can sometimes give out researcher positions more readily.
Something else to be considered when deciding where to live for several years of your life is the location. Some people like staying close to home, somewhere familiar, where you could potentially have access to family. Others want nothing more than to get as far away as possible as fast as possible. Various places around the country or beyond have very different conditions from that of California and San Diego in particular. There is just about nowhere else in the entire country that has so little variance in terms of weather and that alone is a factor not to be overlooked. Going to your dream school isn’t necessarily fun if you’re unequipped to handle the new conditions. These new and different circumstances can also be a different type of adventure, but they’re definitely something to consider when deciding where to go.
Of course, one of the biggest factors when selecting a college experience is what you want to get out of the academic programs. Deciding what you want to get out of your college experience is often impacted by your goals for life, which affect your major choices, extracurriculars, and all the other choices that you might make. Colleges certainly vary in terms of academic rigor, but in the end, the original goal of going to college is to learn something so it’s a crucial element when deciding on a college.
Every college has something that makes it unique and some have very particular programs that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. Such programs include getting a double degree, or a masters in only five years, or even just a specific major that isn’t found at most schools. Choosing a school might also be heavily impacted by the financial aid program at the school. Some colleges are need-blind and some are need-aware. The difference is that need-blind schools don’t take into account whether someone would need financial aid to come to their school when deciding whether or not to admit them. Another factor is the level that you can get involved in when thinking about research opportunities. Some universities have so many graduate students that it’s difficult as an undergraduate to get the opportunity to research with professors.
The atmosphere of the campus is another hugely important factor. Is the campus filled with a sense of community? Of competition? Is campus life centered around sports or academics or something else? Visiting schools helps a lot in terms of determining whether or not a college campus is a good fit for you because you get to experience first-hand what it feels like in terms of the students, activities, and even what it looks like. The real question to think about is whether or not it would be a place where you would want to spend the next four years of your life.