How to Narrow Down Your College Search  

Applying to college is a very exciting and stressful time for students, but knowing where to start can leave you perplexed. Friends and family will be able to give you tips and personal experiences they had when picking the right school, but it is important to remember that this is a personal decision; while advice from others may help, ultimately you are the one going to college. With that in mind, narrowing down your choices does not have to be stress-filled in the least. It all comes down to a handful of factors that can help eliminate some choices.


Academic Programs of Study


When thinking about colleges and universities in general, many if not all schools have the same basic academic programs. This can range from arts and business to science and education. This is where personal preferences come into play. Do you prefer to learn about how the body works and how to take care of it? Then perhaps a nursing program is for you. On the other hand, do you want to create a product and learn how to sell it? If so, an entrepreneurial path might be more your style. However, there are schools all over the country and even internationally that specialize in specific programs of study. If you are confident you already know what you want to study in college, then a search of these particular schools is a smart move.


The Importance of Geography


The next question a future college student needs to ask him- or herself is where he or she wants to study. Is it important that you study close to home or do you want to explore a different city or state? Maybe you do not want to go to school in the same state that you live in, but you want to stay on the same coast. This can be a hard question to answer for some. Wanting to get as far away from your family as possible can sound enticing, but this next factor might limit your options even more.


Finances Can Be Restraining


When narrowing down your college search, do not forget that if you are applying as an out-of-state student you will have to pay more tuition than in-state students do. This can be a big financial commitment for many families, and not being able to afford an out-of-state college may automatically narrow your search for you. However, scholarships are offered all the time for incoming students and even if you are only looking into in-state schools, you should always consider applying to one.


Campus Size and Location


Now that your list of potential schools has gotten slightly smaller, it is time to focus on the size and location of the campus. Ask yourself this: do you see yourself at a school so big you never see the same person twice in one day nor do you see yourself studying somewhere that only takes you a few minutes to walk from one end of the campus to the other? There are schools like these and every other size in between all over the country. The best way to answer this question is to visit your potential colleges in person. Sign up for campus tours or take an unguided walk around the school. You may decide that the student body is too big or that you really would not like being at such a small school after all. Another thing to decide is whether you want to go to a school that is in the middle of a city or in a more rural setting. Some people like being able to leave campus every so often while others like living in a college town.


Sports, Clubs, and Activities


By now, your college search should be getting smaller and smaller. Now it is time to focus on aspects outside of academics. Some colleges have strong sports teams where going to games is a regular weekly activity. Others are popular in theater programs or their numerous clubs and activities to choose from. If this is not a priority for you, then skip this step for now. You can always choose to join clubs and sports teams your first semester at college or your fifth. The most important thing to remember when narrowing down your college search is to not get overwhelmed. Picking the right school will come naturally to you!