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Tips and Tricks of Picking a College

Tips and Tricks of Picking a College

Tips and Tricks of Picking a College

Deciding what to do after high school is many people’s first major life decision. The spring of senior year can be scary!  Is school the right option, or is work?  What about a gap year?  What do my parents want?  How can you know what you want to do for the rest of your life at only 18 years old?  How do you decide where to go?  Here are some helpful tips about choosing the right school for you, if school is your choice, and what I wish I knew before coming to college.

1.    Remember the tuition price is just an average or estimate.

You won’t always pay the tuition listed on the college’s website.  Chances are, it will be more, so don’t forget to budget extra hidden costs into your college plan.  Textbooks are expensive.  Some schools only can house first year students, so you’ll have to move out of the dorms your freshman year.  That might require you get a car or buy a bus/subway pass.  Some classes have computer software or extra materials you may have to purchase.  Beware that every school has hidden costs so budget extra money. 

2.    Pick a place you can proudly sport their t-shirts.

It seems silly, but you need to pick a place where you feel at home and where you’re proud of.  When you go on a campus tour, picture yourself there.  Can you see yourself wearing your school colors cheering on the bleachers or playing your favorite sport?  If you don’t feel like you fit in the atmosphere, you won’t be happy.  Find a place where your gut feeling tells you “yes, I belong here.”

3.    Know your needs.

Make a list of qualities of what your dream school would be.  What’s its size?  Location?  Price?  Academic reputation?  Then, find schools that match as many of these as possible.  Chances are, a school you like won’t have all these qualities unless you’re really lucky.  However, if a school has a quality you don’t like, weigh it against the qualities you do like.  Can you sacrifice your ideal location for a better education?  Are you willing to pay more to be in a certain place?  Can you handle going to a big school if it’s cheaper?  Prioritize your most important qualities first.  However, don’t rule out a school because it doesn’t match your top qualities.  You may end up loving it, so tour many schools and give them a chance.   

4.    Don’t pick a school based on other people’s opinions.

It can be scary leaving home for the first time.  It’s easy to want to go where your friends go.  Remember, this is your college experience, no one else’s.  You need to decide what’s best for you.  You’ll make new friends in college and despite the pain you may feel from leaving your friends at home, it can make you grow.  College is one of the best opportunities to get out of your comfort zone.  Your high school friends are here to stay, even if you live states away.  Don’t miss out on an opportunity to meet new people because you’re scared to lose your old friends. Also, if your parents are pressuring you to go to a school that you don’t want to go to, remind them kindly that although you respect their opinions, it’s your experience.  Try to get them to see another school could be right for you, not just the school they picked for you.  Perhaps visit the school with them and they could see for themselves why the school you want to go to is so great.

5.    Go off-campus and explore.

You’re not only going to be living as a student, but you will also become part of a community.  Look at the city or town.  You won’t be spending the next four years just on campus so it’s important to see what you’ll be surrounded by.  If you love campus but hate the city or town its in, is it worth it?  Or, if you only love the location, are you willing to sacrifice your dream school?  Check out local restaurants, coffee shops, stores, parks and other surrounding areas to see where else you can spend your time besides on campus.

6.    Rent your textbooks.

Depending on your class, you use your books to a varying degree.  You’ll also only use them for one semester.  It’s a lot cheaper to rent your textbooks than to buy them.  Hunt online and check out your school’s bookstore for the best deals.  When you buy your books, even if your bookstore or a website says they’ll buy them back, you’re most likely going to end up losing a lot of money.  They usually buy them back for a very cheap price.  Also, some classes, you might only use your textbook a few times or not at all.  Other classes you will read your book every night.  It’s not worth it to buy a brand new book when there’s a chance you might not use it. 

7.    Get involved.

College is a time to learn and grow.  Push yourself to try something new.  You’ll never know what you might love by sitting in your dorm room and only going to class.  Activities allow you to relax while doing something you love.  You also can meet new people.  Coming to college is scary and you might not make your best friends right away.  However, by joining an activity, you will find other people with similar interests.  It’s hard finding your niche on campus, especially at bigger schools, but if you make an effort to be social, it will be a lot easier. 

8.    Be comfortable with being independent. 

Everyone is busy, stressed and has their own schedule to worry about.  Sometimes, no one has time to go to the dining hall with you or people aren’t interested in trying a restaurant in town.  So what?  If you want to do something, go do it! No one is going to think you look dumb when you sit in the dining hall by yourself.  It means you’re busy, everyone else is busy and no one has time to arrange his or her schedules to perfectly align with another’s.  However, independence might feel lonely sometimes.  Just remember, everyone feels this way at some point and it’s important to know that people do care about you.  Just because you’re lonely doesn’t mean you’re alone. 

9.    Professors are your friends, not your enemies.

The vast majority of professors are helpful and want you to succeed.  If you’re having trouble in class, go to office hours.  It might seem scary going into your professor’s office by yourself, but it’s worth it.  Especially freshmen year, the professors know you’re first year students so they’ll make you feel comfortable and understand if you’re having trouble.  Once in a while, you’ll get a professor who doesn’t seem to care.  Try going to their office hours and asking questions.  Maybe the professor isn’t great at lecturing but one-on-one he or she is more helpful.  Being a professor is hard work so a person wouldn’t become one unless they wanted to become one.  Your education is what you make of it, so make the most of it!  And the good news is, everyone wants to see you succeed or else they wouldn’t be there.

10.                  Have fun!

Education is the first and foremost priority, but you won’t look back at your college experience and remember the nights you spend studying.  Have fun, go out with your friends.  College is the last time you’ll have before the “real world”. You don’t want to look back on your years at college and not remember anything fun! Live your life to the fullest because these are the moments you’ll look back on and smile.  You won’t necessarily remember getting an A on every single test you take, but you’ll be sure to remember the fun you had with your friends and the nights you stayed up laughing with them.  Although academics are important, keep a balance between work and play...  you’ll thank yourself!


Waverly Colville is a freshman at the University of Missouri studying journalism and international relations.  Originally from Buffalo, New York, she hopes to one day become an international correspondent.  Waverly is a beat writer covering the student government for her school newspaper, The Maneater, and a correspondent for E23, the entertainment show on the school TV station.  Waverly loves fashion, traveling, music and chai tea lattes.  Find her at her blog, waverlycolville.wordpress.com and on Twitter at @wavecolville.  


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