What You Should (& Shouldn't) Take Into Consideration When Choosing A College
Choosing a college is a lot like competing in the Triwizard Tournament—you make the wrong choice, and all of sudden Cedric Diggory is dead, and you’re in a creepy graveyard with a dumb trophy and Lord Voldemort. (This analogy may be slightly flawed.) There’s a ton of pressure on you to pick the right place (you’ll be spending the next 3-5 years there, after all), and it can be hard to figure out what you should base your decision on. It’s perfectly rational, for example, to take into account the location of the college—is it a short drive from home, or a 6-hour plane ride?—but it’s slightly less rational to take into account the location of the nearest Starbucks (is 14 blocks too far to walk to get that S’mores frappuccino? Trick question. NO distance is too far to walk for a S'mores frappuccino). Here are a few more things you should (and shouldn’t) take into consideration when you’re deciding where to go:
The Food: Nope! Eating violently mediocre cafeteria food is part of the college experience, so don't knock an otherwise great school off of your list just because their salad bar doesn't have your favorite type of mung bean—you can always get around the problem of bad campus food by buying your own groceries (AKA investing in 13 family-sized tubs of Nutella). Besides, even if a university’s dining service is amazing, there’s no guarantee that you won’t eventually get sick of their delicious margherita pizza (and when that happens, please feel free to send it to us).
The Classes: Yes! Like it or not, classes are a major part of college (even Harry Potter had to go to class, and he was literally the Chosen One). So make sure that you like the general structure, style, and types of classes offered by the colleges you’re considering, as well as the classes you’re required to take in order to graduate. If you have an idea of what you’ll want to focus on—Creative Writing, Neuroscience, Bagpiping–then definitely look into those specific programs or departments at each school.
The Dorms: Nope! Despite what TV shows have led you to believe (we’re looking at you, Vampire Diaries), your dorm room isn’t going to be a sprawling suite with vaulted ceilings and a walk-in closet. Freshman dorms are pretty much guaranteed to be adequate at best (and post-apocalypse survival bunkers at worst), so keep your expectations realistic. You'll likely be living off-campus in a year or two anyway!
The Location: Yes! Whether it’s a busy city with a gigantic population or a middle-of-nowhere town where exactly 19 people live, the location of your college is something you should definitely take into account, as it’ll affect the vibe of your campus, what you do on the weekends, and what sort of internship and job opportunities are available to you. But make sure to consider the location in relation to where you want to be, not where you’re from. If you’re desperate to put some distance between you and the place where you grew up, then a college that’s 30 minutes away probably isn’t ideal—but if you plan on heading home every weekend to do your laundry and watch Netflix with your fam, then don’t choose a campus that’s halfway across the country.
The Student Body: YES x INFINITY. The best way to get a feel for the students at a particular college is to visit the campus, and then either people-watch from behind a pair of gigantic sunglasses (because human interaction=vaguely terrifying), or start up a conversation (what are you, some sort of extroverted mutant?!). These students were in your shoes only a few years ago, and they’ll probably be happy to chat about their experience—and they might be one of the most reliable and honest sources of information. Ask yourself if they seem like the people you’d enjoy spending four years with—are they welcoming and cheerful, or do they immediately make fun of your hair and say that your family is poor? Keep in mind that while you’ll be likely be able to find your niche at most places, it’s definitely nice to feel like you fit in and are part of a culture that's comfortable and fun. If everyone on campus brags about spending 40 hours a week flipping tires at a Cross-Fit gym, and your favorite workout is belting out Hamilton lyrics while suggestively hip-thrusting, then that college probably isn’t for you.