Finding the Best College for You

Going to college – whether it’s moving on from high school, shifting to a new career path, or going back to school – is a journey that begins long before the first day of classes. 

It’s no magic carpet ride, for sure, but like an adventure whose destination is “a whole new world,” it begins with the thought that you want to go to college, and that you’re willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

The next step is finding the best college for you. Those last two words are crucial because, at this stage, what defines a college as “best” are not just its academic standards and accreditation, its location and physical facilities, or the turnout of its alumni.  At this point, what counts as the best college for you is the one that is sure to make your dream come true – graduation and a fulfilling and rewarding career.           

So obviously, the choice of a college should be based not only on the qualities or attributes of the school but also, and more importantly, on your aspirations, needs and present circumstances. 

To find the best college match for you, take the time to seriously study and honestly answer these questions. There are a number of online resources that can help you make a decision. The can answer some of your questions with regard to location of colleges, courses/programs offered, accreditation, post-graduation assistance, scholarship, schedule, and other information you may wish to consider before making your choice.

Of course, it is also a good idea to consult with family members and career counselors to determine your answers to the following, but ultimately they should come from you:

  1. Career path: What industry or career do you want to enter and what are the courses that will get you on that path?
  2. Aptitude and qualifications: Do you have the inclination, talent, or aptitude needed for the career you want? Are you qualified (academically and otherwise) for the course you wish to apply for?
  3. Time for study: How much time will you have for your studies (on campus for classes and out-of-campus for homework and exam preparation)
  4. Program duration: What is your time frame for finishing a course? 6 months? A year? Two years? Four years?
  5. Finances: Will you self-finance your college studies? Can your parents help – fully or partially? Will you need a grant or a loan?
  6. Location: How far are you willing to travel to get to school? Are you willing, and will you be able to afford, moving to a dorm or closer to the campus?

It helps to list down the answers to these questions in a column on one side of a sheet of paper. Now, draw up a list of the colleges you’d like to apply for. Don’t set any restrictions for now.

Next, go back to your “me” list – the answers on the first column – and make a matching list beside it, of the colleges that best address or respond to this item. For example, for the #1, what colleges offer the courses that you want; #2, what colleges accept applicants with the specific GPA that you have; #3, which ones offer flexible hours, night classes or even online courses. You get the picture. 

As you go down the line, find the ones that appear the most number of times. You’re sure to find the college/colleges that will be best suited for you, and will thus provide the conditions that will ensure completion of your course and fulfillment of your dream.

A final tip, too. There are key people and personalities – or offices – that can also help you, perhaps in tallying up your lists or in making the final decision. These include:

  • Parents and family members
  • High school counselors (including teachers in your best subjects)
  • Financial assistance offices (of prospective colleges). Check their websites; some offer to answer inquiries by email)
  • Community organizations.

The thing to remember is that college is about a finding the right match, or a partner, to help you make your dream a reality. It’s a serious choice – because it will be a life-defining decision.