How to Find Your Dream College
And how to actually be able to go there, too!
Finding my current school was a struggle. At the moment, I'm a senior at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and I am so happy there. In high school, I did a lot of dual credit, and afterwards, I continued to my local community college to finish off my Associate's Degree. But after that, I was totally lost. I knew I wanted to get my Bachelor's Degree, but I had no clue where. My sophomore year, I applied to eleven universities to transfer to.
Coming from a family that definitely could not afford a majority of the schools out there, my choices were really limited. I was searching for schools based solely on the price a lot of the time. My grades were honestly pretty good, but I didn't want to be relying on the hope of getting scholarships. I looked for colleges all across the United States. I even looked into programs in Germany, Switzerland, and Iceland.
I spent so. much. time. looking for a school that fit me. It paid off, but the work definitely sucked. So, in hopes that you'll be able to learn from me and avoid my mistakes, here's a list of things that worked for me to find my dream college.
1. Be realistic.
Not many of us can afford Ivy League schools. It's messed up, but that's the current state of our country. Work out how much the maximum you would be able to spend per year on tuition is, and filter your schools by that. Trust me, it's depressing to have to stare down lists of schools that are entirely unattainable. That being said, if there is a specific college you want to go to, and know it's too expensive, look into the scholarships they offer. Scholarships that are awarded specifically for meeting a certain GPA are especially important. I was awarded my scholarship for my grades when I applied to Roosevelt—I didn't have to deal with any smaller, separate applications, and it extremely convenient. A lot of schools have similar systems, where you are guaranteed a certain amount of money each semester in scholarship as long as you keep a specific GPA.
2. Narrow down where you want your school to be.
Do you want to move to the coast? A big city? A small town? There are colleges everywhere in the United States to suit everyone's geographical preferences. When I was applying, I realized I didn't really care where I was. My only concern was that I didn't want to be stuck in a very small college town, which is why I leaned more toward applying to universities in cities. I applied to schools in Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Portland, and various cities in Massachusetts. Another thing to consider is how close or far away you want to be from your family. My parents live about an hour and a half from my school, so it's a nice way to have my own space without being an entire plane ride away.
3. Make sure they have the program or major you want to pursue.
This one should be pretty obvious, but it's a huge factor to consider, especially if you are looking for something pretty niche. I'm majoring in English and Creative Writing, so I had quite a bit of choice on this. One thing that is specific to Roosevelt, though, is my Social Justice Studies minor. Research the programs the school has prior to applying, and make sure they not only have the program you want, but that there is room to grow in case you end up wanting to switch your major or minor.
4. Scope out the student population.
If you have the opportunity to go on a campus tour, take some time to people watch. Are the people walking around campus people you could see yourself hanging out with? What do they do for fun? Do you feel like you would fit in there?
5. Give yourself options.
Like I said before, I applied to eleven universities! It's important to apply to a variety of schools in case you're rejected somewhere, or you receive an acceptance letter and don't get as big of a scholarship as you thought you would, etc. An issue that comes along with this though, is the application fees. Do your research before starting an application to make sure it's not going to cost you too much to submit it.
6. Stay organized.
Make a list or a chart of the universities you're applying to. Write down the pros and cons of each of them. This way, you won't mix schools up, and you know exactly what each one offers.
7. Don't! Stress! Too much!!
Finding a college that fits can be incredibly difficult and stressful. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel! Once you're done, you'll hopefully have found a community that makes you feel at home :)