There’s no such thing as the perfect college, but there is such a thing as the perfect college for YOU. Here are a few things you may want to consider when deciding which schools to apply to:
Some people prefer to learn in a small, intimate setting. One of my economics classes at Trinity University had about 8 or 9 people, including myself. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the school, it has an undergraduate population of roughly 2300, so that is to be expected (Trinity.edu). However, others don’t mind learning in a large auditorium of 200 students. I had a couple of history classes of this size at the University of Houston. Then again, UH is significantly bigger – it has an undergrad population of 30,400 (UH.edu). I think the biggest misconception when it comes to colleges is that smaller is better because you get more direct interaction with the teacher. False. In those large history classes of mine, my professor always took time to answer my questions whenever he came to a pause. He was also very good about responding quickly to email. What trips you up more than anything else is not the size of the class, but the subject matter. If it’s confusing in a class of 200, it will still be confusing in a class of 8. So if a school matches all your other criteria, I encourage you to NOT knock it out of the running because of its size alone.
As a senior in high school, I planned on double majoring in communication and political science. But soon after entering college, I came across a less than stellar poli sci professor who turned me off from the subject forever… And I never even got around to taking a true comm class. Remembering how much I loved economics in high school, I eventually declared myself an econ major. But after studying abroad, I realized my true passion lied in studying other cultures. So sophomore year, I changed my major from economics to anthropology, and I ended up graduating on time with an anth degree. Where am I going with all of this? I think it’s important to choose a school that offers a variety of majors you find appealing so that, if and when you decide you want to change majors, you can do so without having to change schools. And nowhere are you going to find a more diverse mixture of majors than at a liberal arts school. Now if you have music in your blood and are 100% sure you want to be a professional violinist, then by all means, apply to Juilliard. But if like most incoming freshman, you only have a vague idea of what you want to study, then perhaps it’s better to concentrate your attention on liberal art schools.
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas, so I am used to – and actually enjoy – a warm climate. I like being able to wear a t-shirt and shorts all year round (when not at work, that is). Therefore I would be very, very hesitant to apply to a school in the north, no matter how wonderful it was. Weather is NOT something to ignore – you are going to have to walk to class in that weather every day. Professors only cancel class for various serious weather-imposed hazards. I also urge you to consider the size of the city. Because I am from Houston, I have come to LOVE big city life, and cannot picture myself in a rural town, or even a college town for that matter. So even though Chico State offered the exact anthropology/museum studies dual masters program that I desired, I knew I had to go elsewhere. I couldn’t go from the fourth largest city in the US (HoustonTX.gov) to a small town of roughly 88,300 (Chico.ca.us). Remember, even though you can go home on occasion, you will have to spend about four years (or more) in the city in which you go to school, so it’s important that you feel comfortable there.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list by any means. These are just a few of the things I have found useful to keep in mind when choosing (and re-choosing) schools. Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that although other people may mean well when urging you to consider XYZ University, YOU are the only one who can determine if a school is truly a good fit for you. Trust yourself!