5 Things To Consider Before Applying to College

giphy.gif

By Elysa Rivera

In my senior year, I applied to 7 schools.

In the spring of 2020, I will not be graduating from any of them; I will be graduating from a school I transferred to—a school that came from a completely different list, one that I created after considering these 5 things: 

The Cost

This is probably one of the most important things to consider, if not planned properly it can change everything without your support. You may be forced to switch schools or drop out altogether unexpectedly because you can no longer afford your “dream school”. This often results in many resorting to the concept of student debt and loans. In this day and age, higher education is a necessary investment, but how much is too much? 

When considering the cost of your school, think about what makes it so expensive. Is it the campus? The faculty? If it is the faculty, in reality, many professors tend to teach at multiple schools at once. Personally, I learned that professors from Columbia University also taught at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. This means that it may be unnecessary to spend the extra money to go to a costly private school like Columbia if you might end up being taught by the same professors at an affordable community college. Think about if these things are really important to you, and if they are worth the money. 

The Location

Where are you going to live and learn for the next four years? This may seem like a no-brainer at first, but don’t forget to consider your later college years. Where will you work? Where will you intern? Where will you and your friends go to eat at 3 am? Where will you hang out on weekends? Will you need a car? What is the public transportation system like? Is it safe?

As someone who grew up in New York City, my first college having little-to-no security and being surrounded by dark woods was a huge issue for me. I loved the campus, but the nearest movie theatre was 10 miles away, only accessible by car (which I did not have). You might be drawn to a school and its campus without fully considering what sits outside of it—or what doesn’t.

The Demographics

Will you be the only person from your town or school there? Is that something that you want (Or not)? I personally wanted to go to a school where I knew no one all because I had been in the same school with the same people since 7th grade. If too many people I know are going to the same college as me, and it might feel like high school 2.0.

However, some people might not feel comfortable with that, especially when it comes to choosing a roommate. This doesn’t mean that you and your best friend have to go to the same school, but do you want to see familiar faces around from time to time? This might seem trivial, but considering how big of a change this is in your life, it’s important to think about. 

The Possible Majors

I highly recommend choosing a school that has multiple majors in areas of interest. We all graduate high school thinking we know exactly what we want, and more often than not, it changes half-way through your freshman year. If you choose to go to a conservatory for music, it might make it really hard for you if you decide that you would rather be, well, an astrophysicist. Okay, so the example is a bit of a stretch, but you really never know! Think about all the things you want to do and see if the schools you’re applying to have dedicated majors and clubs. Even if you are set on your chosen major, it is better to feel like you’re not “out of options”. College should feel like the opposite; a surplus of options.

Is This Really What You Want? 

This is the golden question that, unfortunately, many of us do not have the privilege of answering honestly. Pressure comes from all over. Our teachers, friends, family, and society tells us that we need to go to college to be worth something. If no one else will say it, then I will. That is not true. College is meant to further your learning to put you ahead of the game. If you aren’t learning anything, not enjoying yourself, and spending (a lot of) money you don’t have to; you risk setting yourself back.

You graduate with debt and a degree that might mean nothing to you, and then what? Deciding if college is right for you right now is the most mature decision you can make at this point in your life. I am very confident that colleges and universities serving as higher education institutions will stick around. There is enough time to do it at your own pace. I transferred from a private-four-year filled with bright-eyed, fresh out of high school students who couldn’t wait to be finished; to a public college, where I had night classes with some who were working in their field for 20 years and some who were grandparents! Being with people who were doing education their way and on their own time inspired me so much, and made me value my education that much more. Think about how you work best. Maybe part-time classes online are what you need, or maybe an accelerated program will help you! Have the courage to personalize your college experience so that it feels right to you. 

Transferring schools means that I went through the college application process twice (*shudders*). Now, there isn’t anything wrong with transferring, but I could have easily avoided the headaches if I had not been so stubborn about having the same college experience as the movies and thought about what I really wanted. After considering these 5 tips, I am going to be graduating from my new-found dream school. A school that felt like it welcomed me with open arms, and embraced me tightly as it told me everything will be okay. Applying to colleges must start with being honest with yourself about your wants and needs. Education will always be there. We learn every single day; but what kind of environment and circumstances are going to shape you into the person you want to be? That is what college is really about, and it begins with which college you decide to apply to.