It’s that time of year—for many high school juniors, spring term is the time to start thinking about where to apply to college, and making a college list. While many factors go into the final results of a college list, one of the first and most critical steps is self-reflection. To know what kind of colleges would be a good fit for you, you have to know yourself, and there are a variety of factors to consider when deciding what you want from a college.
Does your college list show what you’re studying?
Have you got an idea of your major yet? Many students know, or at least have a strong idea of what they want to study in college from fairly early on in high school, and this is an important factor in where you apply. If you dream of being a doctor, your college list should include schools with strong pre-med programs. If you love the arts, look at schools with a creative bent. Not sure what you want to study yet? That’s okay too! But if that’s the case, then you should look at schools with broad course options, which will allow you to sample a variety of disciplines before declaring a major.
Where are you going?
Location, location, location! College is an overwhelming experience for many students, and a major physical move can add to that. If the idea of all-new surroundings, as well as an all-new school, makes you anxious, then you might want to look at schools close to home, or in an area where you’ve already spent a lot of time. On the other hand, many students want to use college as a time to explore, or live in a city or state they’ve always dreamed of—in which case, cast your eye wide!
What will your experience look like?
Big school or small? Arty or sporty? Greek life or student-run co-ops? There are as many types of college experiences as there are college students, and knowing which you want will influence your college list. While some students like the broad options and lively social life of a large research university, others prefer the intimacy and personalized attention of a liberal arts college. There’s also the question of what kind of extracurricular activities a school offers, and whether the campus culture meshes well with your interests. Getting an idea of what you want your experience to look like will help you craft a more targeted and focused college list.
Do you know yourself well enough to factor in the “intangibles”?
As every student is unique, there will always be factors that only you can know. Whether it’s an interest in schools with a particular foundation, such as those of religious colleges, HBCUs, or women’s colleges, or being concerned about job and internship opportunities while you study, only you know what’s important to you, in ways that might not be obvious to anyone else. This is why reflection and self-knowledge are such important parts of the application process, and only you can do them. Once you know yourself, you’re already well on your way to applying to college!