College Planning – Finding the Right College – The First Time

Which Way To CollegeFinding the right college can be a daunting task, but it can be very expensive if you do NOT find the right college the first time around. Most students that transfer out after one or two semesters at a college find that they take an extra one to three semesters to finish their college education. At the cost of $5,000 to $30,000 per semester, it makes great sense to perform a methodical and cost-effective search before deciding on a college.

Here are a few suggestion to make your search go smoother. First start with a broad search on the internet and at your high school guidance department. Select your criteria for distance from home, state or private school, field of study and any extracurricular or athletic programs that you want available. This should provide a list of 20 to 75 schools.

Next you will want to visit these college web sites and take their virtual tour if available. While on their site, be sure to take note of their estimated cost of attendance, usually in the admission or financial aid section. Start a handwritten or computer spreadsheet to keep track of these items and start comparing the colleges. Make sure to compare each college for the same categories, so you get a fair comparison.

Once you have the list narrowed to your top 10 “best fit” colleges that meet your needs and financial situation, it is time to start the formal search process. This will include visiting the college campus for an open house or a campus tour to further narrow the field. Be sure to rate and rank each school that you visit on the same scale so that a fair comparison can be made.

Next, take your top three or four schools and develop your contacts list at the school. Then arrange for overnight visits and ultimately make your final selection. During these overnight visits you will get an accurate look at the campus life, classroom and dormitory atmospheres. Make a specific point of visiting the library, dining halls and intramural activities that interest you.

Take notes about the things that you like and dislike the most at each college campus. There will almost always be one college that stands out as the best fit. Congratulations, you just methodically saved time and money. If you follow these steps, you will have a rewarding college experience and enjoy your life on campus.

Summary:

We all know how important a college education can be. For most families, other than buying a house, it can be the biggest investment they will make. Do your research, compare your choices, narrow them down and then take them for a test drive. You are guaranteed to save time, money and reduce the stress about making a wrong choice.

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