Welcome to the first entry in our four part series about making a good college list. Making your college list is not as simple as it seems! If you are a college senior and you don’t have this list done, you are behind now that it’s August. We’re here to help you think it through! There are many things that you should consider when creating your list. Though many students may have their heart set on one school, your list should be created in a way so you would be happy going to any one of the schools on it. Many important factors require consideration when creating your college list, and if you overlook something important it can negatively impact your college experience. In this post, we start with two big factors you need to look at- location and size.
Just like in real estate, location is crucial when considering what colleges and universities you want to apply to! Think about where you want to live during the school year. Do you want to be in a city center or a college town? Can you handle cold or warm weather? Do you participate in activities that would require you to live in a certain region, like skiing or snowboarding? Put serious thought into questions like these when deciding which colleges to put on your list.
Some people will be fine in a variety of environments, but there are some people who love to snuggle up in blankets and warm, wintry clothes and would do poorly in the dry heat of Southern California. Furthermore, it’s important to think about your intended major when thinking about the town or city your college will be in. If you need opportunities for internships, it may pay to be in a city. For example, if you want to go into tech, it would be beneficial to be near Seattle or Silicon Valley as there are a plethora of mentorship, internship, and job opportunities in those areas. For students in the performing arts, they will want to be near big cities with many opportunities in their fields such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas.
This one is hard, as your only reference for school size is likely your high school, which is not a good gauge for the feel of your future college or university. A small university will have 3k-6k students, while a large university will have 25,000 or more! Many students will just say “I want to go to UW” without really thinking about how massive it is. You should try to sit in on a 101 class at a large university to see if you can focus with 600 other students in the same lecture hall. If you can handle the distraction, you can apply to a large university. Note that large universities claiming a small student to faculty ratio often are downplaying the immense size of the major intro classes. If you want to know your professor, you’d want to apply to a smaller university. There are also mid-range colleges that have 10k-15k students, if you wanted something in between. Sit in on classes from universities of varying sizes to see which one would work best for you! College tours will be vital in determining what size of school you want to attend. Go on tours to schools of all different sizes during a school day to get an idea of campus size and if you like the vibe. Even if you don’t want to go to a particular school, I often recommend you tour a local college just to get an idea of the size. It is much easier to start narrowing your list once you know this information.
Also, keep in mind that the size of a university has other implications you’ll want to think about as well. For instance, large universities often have more majors to choose from, clubs and activities to join, and more resources in general. Smaller universities, on the other hand, offer a strong sense of community, the ability to work personally with your professors, be taught directly from your professors, and smaller universities usually have the ability to allow for a more flexible curriculum. On the flip side, large universities have huge class sizes (600-800 students), are usually taught and graded by a teaching assistant who is not as knowledgeable and connected as a Ph.D., and students often don’t receive as good of feedback or academic opportunities such as writing more essays or creating projects as the number of students makes it difficult for professors and assistants to develop a student’s abilities. Small universities also have downsides as they generally have fewer resources. For instance, they don’t have as many majors to choose from, and as a result, don’t have as many classes to choose from like you would have at a larger university.
Thanks for reading and watching! I hope these first two tips were helpful, but you have a long way to go! Make sure to keep tuning in for the rest of the series to ensure that you make the best college list possible!