A map for the college search

Sarah Greim, Raider Times staff

College. For some, this is an obstacle they cannot stop stressing about. For others, it is simply a word looming in the back of their minds. Me? I roam somewhere in the middle.

Being a junior in high school I have a bit of time until I need to apply and seriously consider college. However; planning ahead is never a bad thing. Many of my peers (11th-graders) are already making decisions on what they want to major in and where they plan on looking at college.

Being in my third year of high school, I have already begun thinking what my ideal college would be. I hope to be somewhere far enough that my parents couldn’t easily reach me, yet close enough that visiting on holidays is not too much of a hassle.

My search officially began April of my sophomore year. I was on vacation in Virginia, and decided to stop by the College of William and Mary. I hadn’t been on a college information session/tour prior to this, so I signed up and walked in not quite knowing what to expect.

The typical run of events in info sessions begins with a quick overview of the college, usually includ- ing a current student’s point of view. (If you’re lucky, you can even score some free coffee.) You should gain some solid valuable knowledge about the school during the information session. The college representatives tell you the school’s highlights, the class sizes, meal plan, rooming situation, and many other vital factors. Following the info session, most visitors take a tour led by students. This allows visitors to view the campus up front, and dive even deeper into that school’s college experience.

A few tips. When planning on what you want in an ideal college, it’s a good idea to take some key factors into account before hitting the road. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself visiting different colleges when you don’t have a clue what to look for. A couple of vital things to take into account right off the bat include size and location. Would you prefer a school 10 minutes from home or across the nation? Near a city? In the country? Would you enjoy a class of 5,000 or 500?

Another thing to consider is budget and grades. If a college costing $60,000 a year is out of your range (as it is for many), it may be smart to either apply for scholarships, or simply keep your options open to cheaper schools.

When looking at possible colleges, you must be realistic with which schools you have a good chance of getting admitted to. It is common for most students to choose three “reach” schools (which you hope to get into), moderate schools (which you most likely will be admitted into), and safety schools (which you most definitely will be accepted into). This strategy gives many students a plan when branching out and beginning the application process.

With this mind-set, I was able to begin my college search with an idea of what to look for. Some schools I found appealing were Wesleyan, UMass-Amherst, and Dartmouth.

Wesleyan appealed to me for multiple reasons. Its location (in Connecticut) was not too far/close to Boston, and based in a friendly college town. It has an arts program (particularly film) that also drew me in. It had a medium class size, which I also hoped to find in a school.

UMass-Amherst was another top choice for me due to its distance, college town, and price. Being from Massachusetts, I would reap the benefits of the in-state discount. UMass-Amherst also has a great Honors program within the school for those who strive to do more. On the other hand, it is a much larger school than some liberal arts colleges.

Dartmouth also caught my attention. Its size was right in my ballpark, as well as the distance from Bos- ton. Its reputation as an Ivy League school was also impressive. Dartmouth is a great example of a reach school for myself. There is no guarantee anywhere you go, however; if you do have an interest in some- where in particular, it is vital to keep your options open.

Since visiting various colleges, I’ve gotten a good idea of what I truly want in my future school. I recom- mend searching around a bit and I hope this quick blip of info helped you a bit as well.

Best of luck, don’t overthink it, and just follow what makes you happy.

–Nov. 8, 2015–