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Heads Up Juniors: Tips to Help You Start Your College Search

Now that the second semester of high school is underway, it’s time to start dreading about the future. Although, the future doesn’t have to be so stressful!

Determining what you want to do after high school is one of the biggest decisions of your lifetime. Whether you want to enter college, a trade, or the workforce, there are some big questions that are going to define your future. This may sound like a enormous task, but in reality, people have to make decisions like these everyday. And if everyone else can do it, you can, too!

Below are a few tips that will help you determine where you want to go after high school; specifically, these tips are for students looking to go to college. Also, if you don’t have that entirely figured out yet, you still have time! Either way, just keep these in mind when you’re looking at your future school.

1. Location

When you first start looking at schools, you need to notice the location. Depending on the person, certain prospective students want to live closer or farther from home. This depends on how comfortable you are with living away from everything you’ve ever known. For the bold, outgoing individual, it would make sense if they were okay with moving to the other side of the country. For the more reserved and nervous person, staying close to home may be a safer bet. The location of your school affects everything from the culture to the people to the traffic to the weather. Do you mind having to drive to your school or place of work, or would you rather walk? Do you prefer colder or warmer weather? Can you stand sitting in gridlock traffic in order to get to class? Location is a big aspect to watch when choosing your college or career.

2. Campus Look

Although it may seem unimportant, the look of your campus can have a big impact on your lifestyle there. For example, small campuses have a much more homier feel, where all the dorms and halls are closer together. In contrast, bigger schools can have the same impact as that of living in a small town. Along with this, visually appealing schools make students proud to go there. Campuses that may be run-down with old buildings may make students embarrassed to attend. Keep this in my when deciding which college is best for you.

3. Campus Living

In terms of campus living, there are two important aspects to consider: Are you living on campus, and if you are, what type of housing does the school offer? For the first question, think back to the location of your school. If you live a short distance from the college, living off-campus is a option to seriously consider. You could save a lot more money by living at home and commuting than living on campus. If living off-campus isn’t an option, then living on-campus is more likely. If you can, consider visiting all the different dorms that your school has to offer; which ones are for freshmen, which are co-ed, which have double occupancy, and much more. Along with housing, the amount of amenities that the campus has to offer will impact your life away from home. All of these will influence how life at your chosen college will live out.

4. Student Life

Depending on the person, prospective students also require a certain level of student life. This includes, but is not limited to, athletics, Greek life, religious life, clubs and organizations and so much more. The first, athletics, can be for any and everybody: campus sports usually range from Division I in the NCAA to club sports or intramurals that you can play at your own leisure. Greek life is your usual fraternities and sororities; they provide a history to the campus and a brother or sisterhood that lasts a lifetime. Some campuses have religious life, where you can exercise your faith on your own time and join fellowships thereof. Additionally, colleges have clubs and organizations that fit everyone; and yes, that means literally everyone with a special interest. Schools have so much to offer when it comes to extracurricular activities.

5. Cost

You may have heard people say that “money doesn’t matter.” In reality, once you start looking at tuition and fees, it does. When looking at colleges, it makes sense to consider what your family can really afford. This price may also be affected by the amount of scholarships the school offers. Do they have merit scholarships for students with high academic achievements? Do they offer work-study programs, where you can work off your debt? In addition to looking at the financial aid that the individual school offers, look for outside scholarships that institutions and businesses offer. You can find these anywhere, and for anything. Check out websites like Scholarships.com and Fastweb.com. Lastly, remember to fill at your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible. The government offers money that could go a long way for you and your family.

6. The Endless Other Details

There are endless amounts of things to consider when deciding on your college. Considerations can range from money to location to food and to parking. It all depends on what you want in your future. In order to get information on your school(s), visit their website and plan a college tour, if you haven’t already. Figure out what is important to you, and look for that in your colleges. And if you’re just getting started on your search, there are many websites to help, like Niche and College Board. Talking to a guidance counselor or your parents is also a good place to start.

This is the future! This decision will determine where you start living the rest of your life. Although it’s a big decision, considering all of the possibilities early on will make everything easier in the end. So start searching as soon as possible because before you know it, high school will be almost over!

Photo: Spire&Co via The New York Times

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Madyson Fitzgerald
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I read, write, take pictures, and laugh a lot.

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