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5 min read

Ask These 4 Questions Before Choosing the Right College for You

Ask These 4 Questions Before Choosing the Right College for You

“Which college is right for me?”

Hold up! It may be too soon to ask that question.

Sometimes, finding the college for you takes some looking inward before you start looking outward. (This article on college fit explains how to evaluate schools and determine which ones to add to your college list. Be sure to check it out after reading this one!)

In this blog post, we explain questions to ask yourself to determine why college is important to you and determine qualities your best fit college will likely have so you can choose which college is right for you

Answering these 4 questions will help you approach the college search and discovery process with a solid foundation.  

 

4 Questions to Help You Find Your College Fit 

In order to set yourself apart with the best chance to enroll at the college of your choice, you'll want to reflect. Ask yourself the following:

  • Why do you want to go to college?
  • What are 3 things you want to accomplish during your college years?
  • What type of learning environment is best for you?
  • How do you define a good education?

On the surface, these questions may not seem very consequential. After all, they’re not keyed to specific destinations—colleges that might be on your list. For big decisions like choosing a college to go to, it's important to better understand yourself and what’s in this process for you before choosing the colleges where you'll apply.

Taking time to wrestle with these questions at the outset of your college application process will enable you to identify your priorities and, more importantly, give you a sense of purpose going forward so you can find the best college for you.

So, grab a journal, a pencil, and a coffee...and let's dive in!

 

1. Why do you want to go to college? 

Friendly reminder:

You don’t have to go.

There is no law that says you must. In fact, you have options. You can graduate from high school and get a job. You can engage in community service, or travel to interesting places. Or you can hang out at home and watch Netflix or play video games all day (we don’t recommend this...even though it's tempting!).

The question of “why college” often draws a deer in the headlights look from those who know college is in the future but have yet to figure out what the opportunity means to them. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

Here are some of the most common responses to this question (and they’re probably going through your head, too!).  

“Do I really have to know?”

“Everybody is going to college. If I don’t go, I’ll be left behind.”

“Well, you don’t know my parents. They’re going to make me go.”

Only 60-70% of students will finish their undergrad within 6 years, suggesting that many students on college campuses don’t have a good understanding of the opportunities that are available to them.

Now is a good time to start giving serious thought to the importance a college education might hold for your future.

 

2. What are 3 things you want to accomplish during your college years?

A college education means different things to different people. For many, it is a necessary credentialing process—a means to an end such as graduate school or specialized career work. And it represents self-actualization and an opportunity to become a more well educated person.

What do you want to accomplish during your four years of college that might speak to either (or both) of these considerations?

Starting with a sense of purpose borne out of thoughtful “I want” statements will help you find focus. It will also enable you to take ownership for your application process. Plus, knowing what you want will make it easier to prepare compelling applications for the colleges of your choice.

Here are some example "I want" statements, and great catalysts for eventually finding good colleges for you:

  • I want to meet interesting people
  • I want to be an expert on a particular subject
  • I want to explore other academic disciplines
  • I want to study abroad
  • I want to research
  • I want an internship
  • I want to play in the band
  • I want to lead a club
  • I want to grow personally
  • I want to grow my network and make new friends
  • I want to discover what I am good at/what I want to do for a career
  • I want to have fun
  • I want to have a great education that will prepare me for graduate school

Next, focus on why you have made each selection. What would it mean to have an experience like that? How would it enrich you?

As the “I want” statements begin to emerge, so will your priorities and, along with them, a growing recognition of the synergy you'd like to find between yourself and the colleges under consideration.

Personally, I was looking for a college that would set me up well for a career in business, but would also allow plenty of opportunities to make friends in a smaller setting. So, I chose a small school with tons of clubs and a great business program.

 

3. What type of learning environment is best for you?

Not all schools are alike in teaching style. It's a common misconception that beyond the name of a school, its location and its social life, most schools are alike. 

Nope! That's why your learning style is pretty darn important when finding a good college for you.

Just as we all process information differently, colleges and universities deliver it differently.

Consider the follow scenarios:

  • Would you rather learn biology from the book or in the lab?
  • Would you rather learn history in a lecture hall listening to a professor talk about the assigned book or in a seminar room with 12-15 students talking with a professor about the same book?

While you can master the subject either way, your mastery will be likely be more personally satisfactory—and longer lasting—when you are meaningfully engaged. This is true whether your learning style is visual, auditory, experiential, or linguistic. Putting yourself in a learning environment to which you are ill-suited can greatly compromise your potential to learn and achieve to the best of your ability, a factor that contributes greatly to students leaving college prematurely.

Now, consider learning style in a slightly different manner. If a teacher were to give you the opportunity to get a grade for the entire year, which form of assessment would you choose? Be prepared to explain why it makes the most sense for you.

  • Take a test
  • Write a paper of 20 pages or more
  • Submit an independent project

Your selection will probably reflect your strengths—an ability to prepare for and take tests well, a facility for shaping and defending an argument or point of view, or a penchant for creativity. If one form of assessment stands out above the rest, now you know more about your style of learning.

As you come to better understand this, focus on finding colleges where you will be able to use your strengths.

 

4. How would you define a good education?

It’s not uncommon for students to say they want a good education during the self-reflection process. Frankly, this is a great objective. The problem is that there is no textbook definition for a good education; so, you need to give it your own!

Imagine coming to the realization at some point in your college  journey that the experience you are having truly fits the definition of a good education for you. What’s happening that draws you to that conclusion?

Will it be your relationships with your professors or your peers?

Will it be the manner in which you are exposed to the content of your chosen discipline or the curriculum in general?

Or will it be an awareness of a broadened perspective?

For each student, the epiphany will be different. As you imagine yours, pay particular attention to the contributing factors. Then, look for colleges that are most likely to afford you that good education.

By engaging in thoughtful reflection and taking stock of your priorities, you establish a sense of purpose and, ultimately, ownership in a process that will put you on the path to success in the college admission process.

A great next step is to create a free Scoir account and explore the colleges that are out there!

Moving forward, take control—and make the process work for you. You've got this!

Next, be sure to read How to Know if a College is Right for You: Finding Your Best Fit.

 

This article was originally published on September 15, 2020. It was updated on August 22, 2023 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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