Five Tips for Choosing a College
Clueless star and Atlanta-native actress Brittany Murphy once said, “Life presents you with so many decisions. A lot of times, they’re right in front of your face, and they’re really difficult, but we must make them.” Truer words have never been said. And choosing your college is one such decision.
College is not just a place where you spend four years of your life; it is the crucial transitional phase into adulthood. Instead of sampling a variety of subjects, you are specializing in one particular area. You are setting the course for your future. And if that is not scary enough, there’s also the issue of fitting in and belonging.
No matter how much you think you know about college, either from your parents’ stories or Hollywood movies, the best way to experience college is for yourself. That starts by choosing the college right for you.
Take a look at our five tips for selecting a college and see how many you’ve done:
- Organize your priorities - What do you want to get out of your college experience? This requires you to get a pen and paper, but it is imperative. Your college experience consists of numerous components. Think it through, and categorize your list into very important, important, and not so important. Things to put on the list may include competitive academics, social life, spiritual activities, one-on-one time with professors, etc. Once you are thorough with this step, it will keep you focused and speed up your search.
- Research your options - Once you figure out what your priorities are, make Google your best friend, and conduct an in-depth search of the colleges that interest you the most. All colleges have informational materials. Request them to be sent to you or just find them through the websites. Look for statistics and trends. Pay particular attention to information about your prospective academic department/major. If you want to go the extra mile, call the admissions offices. (Give Southern’s Admissions office a call at 423.236.2835.) The more you know, the better prepared you will be.
- Know your family’s finances - For some, this a difficult step and requires an honest, sit-down conversation with your parents, because to plan, you need details. Figure out how much your parents are willing to contribute, if you have a college fund, how scholarships work (southern.edu/scholarships), and most importantly, how much federal aid you are eligible for. (You will need to file the free application for Federal Student Aid—FAFSA—at fafsa.gov to complete this last step.)
- Go and visit - By this point, you’ll have a general idea of which colleges you are seriously considering. Narrow that list down to your top three choices. However efficient Internet research is, nothing substitutes physically visiting a place. You can meet current students, chat with professors, coordinate with a finance counselor, and tour residence halls. (Check out Southern’s college days events below.*) Most colleges offer some incentive for you to come and visit. For example, Southern provides free lodging and meals!** Take advantage of these incentives.
- PRAY - Jeremiah 29:11. Nuff said.
What steps have you completed? Did you skip any? It is never too early—or too late—to start your journey. Take a deep breath and move one step at a time. Before you know it, you will be experiencing the college God planned for you.
*PreviewSouthern events are offered nearly every month. For more information and to find one that fits your schedule, visit southern.edu/preview. Or, just schedule your personal visit at southern.edu/visit.
**Southern covers one night of lodging and meals for you and your immediate family. For our two-day Preview events, two nights of lodging are included.
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