Many of our SAT students here at Knewton want to know two things: First, how can I get SAT scores that will get me into the college of my dreams? And, second, how do I find the college of my dreams?
In many high schools across the nation, competition is fierce. Everyone knows everyone else’s grades and scores; the pressure to succeed comes from all directions: peers, parents, and teachers alike. But the important thing for competitive students to realize is that there really is no such thing as a BEST school. There is only the school that is best for you.
In no particular order, here are the top 10 factors–small and large–to consider as you start thinking about those college applications:
1. Climate. Maybe you’re obsessed with surfing, skiing, or hiking. Try to find a college in a location that offers that activities. Do you get depressed in the wintertime? Ithaca might not be the right location for you. Know you’ll never go to class if there’s a beautiful beach at your doorstep? Steer clear of UCLA.
2. Setting. Do you want to be a big city, or prefer a slower place? Can’t live without jazz clubs and funky new restaurants? Check out schools in NYC. If you can’t stand cities and find solace in nature, though, NYU isn’t the right place for you. Seek out more rural or suburban campuses.
3. School spirit. Do you think you would enjoy painting your face (or body) and yelling the school chant next to thousands of fans at a football or basketball game? Or does this sounds like the worst idea in the world? Certain schools are much more “rah-rah”than others. Don’t be afraid to ask current students about their perspectives!
4. Party scene. Are you interested in joining a fraternity or sorority, or would you rather avoid that scene? Do you want to go to school in a city where people go to bars, clubs, or restaurants to hang out, or would you rather your social life be centered on campus?
5. Size. Do you want to know everyone in your graduating class? For some, a small school is appealing, while others feel more comfortable surrounded by tens of thousands of peers. Think about the size of your high school class. Do you want something bigger, smaller, around the same size?
6. Academic offerings. Do you know what you want to study? There might be more specialized schools with impressive reputations in a very select field that you should look into. If you have no idea what you want to major in, a liberal arts school might be the place for you.
7. Teachers. Do you want large lectures, or small round-table discussions? Do you mind turning mostly to TAs for questions, or do you want one-on-one attention from professors?
8. Diversity. How important is a diverse student body to you, and what kind of diversity are you looking for? Internationally diverse, socioeconomically diverse, racially diverse? Accepting of LGBT students? Tolerant of religious practices? Most schools attempt to achieve some level of diversity, but some schools focus on it more than others. There are also schools that have some sort of religious or ethnic association; perhaps it appeals to you to study around people similar backgrounds as yourself.
9. Distance from home. Do you want to be close to your family, or would you prefer to be immersed in a completely different world than the one you grew up in? Whatever the case may be, try to picture your life independent from what you have been used to for the past 18 years. With cell phones, and the internet, being away is not quite the same as it used to be–but until we learn how to teleport, you’ll still have to deal with airports and/or long drives if you go to school far from home.
10. Extracurricular offerings. Are you obsessed with journalism? Look for a school with a great daily or weekly paper. Love casual sports? Look for a school with a great intramural league. Most schools will have plenty of extracurriculars, but try to be sure that there are at least a few offerings that appeal to you.