Finding a perfect school is like finding a mate - it takes time and lots of searching. You want to make sure you choose a school that suits your needs as well as your wants. It can be incredibly stressful when it comes to picking a place to spend four years of your life, give or take, and you may not know exactly what to look for. To start, begin by looking at what factors you definitely don’t want. How do you know if a school is not right for you?
If there is no way you can afford to go to a school you’ve had your eye on for a while, it’s time to change directions. Now, don’t get me wrong - there are ways to pay for college that don't include or only include you or your parents’ money. Financial aid is a great place to start when seeing what you can afford. If you are eligible for grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans - and if your parents can help as well - this can open some doors for you. However, if you try your best and still cannot come up with the money for your chosen school, it may be time to look at some cheaper options.
2. Degree options
Tons of college students have no idea what they want to major in, and that’s perfectly okay. I was one of those students for a while. If you’re looking at a school and there’s nothing that interests you on their list of courses or degrees, I would recommend researching other schools.
If you know exactly what you want to do with your life, but you choose a school that doesn’t have your major, you’re not doing yourself any favors. I get it - maybe your best friend or boyfriend or girlfriend is going there, and you don’t want to be separated, but this is a decision you need to make for yourself. Choose a school that has degree options you like. And if you’re completely unsure about what you want to study to the point where choosing a school is nothing but stressful, take a breather and go to a community college. There, you don’t have to choose a major if you’re not ready; you can focus on your general education requirements and have time to figure things out for yourself.
3. You went on a college tour and things were just…okay
Going on a college tour is a big deal. You get a feel for the campus and get to see what life there would be like. If you go on a campus tour and aren’t impressed, there’s a good chance that the school just isn’t right for you. You want to be excited about going to college, not unsure of your feelings!
4. There’s nothing interesting on the list of campus organizations
This is a big deal for anyone who is an active participant at school and wants to be active in college. If you look at the list of organizations at a school and don’t see anything you want to be a part of, this is a sure sign the place isn’t for you. If being involved on campus is important to you, find a school with activities that interest you.
If the vibe of the school is not meshing well with you for whatever reason, look elsewhere. You want to be happy on campus. It may feel like you can overlook it, but a feeling of dread or unhappiness around your school will only make you resent your choice in the long run.
6. You don’t like the campus appearance
To some, this may not matter, but if you find the campus is filthy or you don’t like the look of it for any particular reason, feel free to find other schools to research. This doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but you want to go to a school that is well-kept, especially if you plan on living in the dorms. If the campus is dirty, what do you think the dorm rooms will be like?
7. There’s nothing that interests you in town
Of course, this is not a concern for anyone going to school in or next to a large city, but for those of you who stumble upon a school in a typical college town, make sure you do some research and find what fun things there are to do around town. You’ll inevitably get bored on campus at some point, so having an alternative place to hang out and have some fun is ideal.
8. You don’t meet the minimum GPA requirement
If you graduated high school with a 1.8 or a 2.0 GPA, and you have decided you want to apply to a prestigious school that requires a minimum of a 3.0, you should reconsider. If you really have your eyes on a school that has requirements beyond what you have earned, there is still hope. I would recommend going to community college to raise your GPA. This can be done while taking general education requirements needed to graduate. Another option if you do not like the idea of community college is choosing a school that’s more in line with your high school GPA and standardized test scores, and transferring later.
9. Your gut feeling
Say you’re on a tour and while on campus, you have this feeling of uncertainty. Listen to this feeling. If you genuinely believe a school is not right for you, you will know. Just listen.
Finding the perfect school is not easy, but identifying ones that definitely aren’t right for you will make narrowing it down a little easier. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, take a breather and think about your options. You’ll be on your way to the perfect school for you in no time!
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