“I’m a senior in high school and I know I want to go to college but I haven’t thought about what I’d like to major in or where I want to go. I’m not even sure how to start thinking about college, let alone searching for one. Help me! How does someone who has absolutely no idea what they want to do, get started?”
First off—don’t worry! Not knowing what you want to do yet is completely normal. Lots of people know they want to go to college before they know what their major will be or what school they want to attend. Choosing a college and creating a plan takes time and consideration. Most people you talk to will probably tell you that the first step to beginning your college search is doing your research.
Those people are wrong.
You didn’t think I was going to say that did you? But it’s true. Think about it—if you open up Google and type in “find a good college” it will give you a lot of results but none of them are really going to be what you’re looking for. It’s okay, if you don’t know what you want yet (you don’t have to know what you’re searching for to find something great) but it is important to start thinking about it.
The very first step to starting your college search is asking yourself a few important questions. Here are some to get you started…
Online collage or in person college?
These days the option of earning a college degree entirely or partly online is common practice. It wasn’t that long ago when online college wasn’t even an option, but today there are numerous options available. You’ll find many major universities offer courses online, and many have entire programs devoted to earning your degree entirely online.
So your question is what is more important to you, attending classes on campus or in the comfort of your own home? Since both options are valid it comes down to what you are looking for in your education, social interactions, and on campus activities.
Why are you going to college?
Do you want a job, an experience, a chance to grow up, an increase in salary and opportunities, or all of the above? It seems obvious but many people think of college as the default “next step” after leaving high school, without thinking about their real reasons for going. Stop and think about it for a bit. Ask yourself where you’d like to be in four years or, if that’s too hard to imagine, what you’d like to have figured out. You might surprise yourself.
For many amassing massive debt attending college is neither conducive to success as an adult nor all that practical when there are many more options for pursuing a career these days. It used to be going to college was a must in order to get a good job and find success in life – while many still argue that is the case there really are other paths to success.
It all comes down to what you are looking for in your college experience, and what you imagine yourself doing in your chosen career.
Where would you like to live?
If it’s important for you to live at home, or at least be close to home, it can help you significantly narrow your college search. Even if you don’t know your major yet, if you know there are only four schools in your area in addition to online colleges, you can start looking at their programs and see if something catches your eye. On the other hand, if it’s important to you to leave home you can rule out those options too.
In addition with the popularity of online schools you really have the option of living anywhere in the world. It really opens up all sorts of possibilities now that finding online college programs is becoming mainstream.
How do you learn best?
Something you may not have thought about before is that at most traditional four-year schools, you could end up sitting in large lecture halls of over 300 students. Large colleges attract a lot of top professors and have some major benefits, but smaller schools are worth considering for their community.
A lot of college’s emphasize different learning styles into their programs as well. Some prefer practical application vs. theory, project-based courses, group assignments, or a workload that’s heavy in writing and communication. Think about how you learn best and it could help steer you in a direction you didn’t think of.
What don’t you want?
It may seem like an odd way to go about it, but sometimes figuring out what you don’t want is just as important as identifying what you do. If you know you don’t want to major in a liberal arts major, then you can rule out colleges that focus on those subjects. If you know you don’t want to live on the east coast, then that’s a lot of choices you can remove from you list.
Finding a good college isn’t just about going to a name-brand school and hoping it works out. It’s about finding the right fit for you. Often times you won’t make that big decision until you actually visit the campus and get a feeling that, “this is it”.
And if you don’t know all the answers right away, don’t worry. That’s part of what the college search process is about. You’re looking for something. Sometimes it takes a little time.