Monday, March 28, 2016

15+ Simple Ways to Help You Decide Your College

I am inspired to write this for my sister, Natalia, who is about to graduate and who has made me SO proud. It feels like so long ago that I graduated high school and went to college. Cue the walker! Just kidding.

In helping her with applications for colleges, applications for scholarships, and now helping in deciding what college she should go to, I am inspired to write this for her.  

I remember applying for colleges and I wish that I had half the confidence my sister does in applying- I would have gotten into more colleges. When you are smart and come from a hard background this is something that is validating that you are going up!

What are big sisters for than to be awake at 1am or even last night 5am to help their little sister with one of the biggest choices of their life? I would do it all over again because my pride is just beaming! 

So here goes 10 Simple Ways to Choose a College.

In the past, how did you make your past decision?
How did that decision pan out for you?

applying to college, choosing a college, university, 15+ simple ways to help you decide your college,

#1 Write Down All the Dates For Each College on a Spreadsheet or Poster Board

Whether you are a digital person or like to hand write things out it will be important to keep all your dates straight. What dates? No, not the romantic kind.

Dates you need to know:
* Application Due Date
* Admissions Date in Which you hear back
* When You hear your financial aid summary
* When you have to give your decision by
* When you move in

#2 What Scholarships Does This School Offer in General or to You Specifically

Apply to all you can but your school usually tells you the top three right off the bat. Plan according to what they tell you. In the meantime, apply to scholarships if you can. Here is an idea of what you can look for.

* Pell Grant
* Chafee Grant (Former Foster Youth)
* Federal Grants
* School Grants like Smith Society at UCSC (for foster youth, refugees, wards) 
* Sports Grants
* State Grants
* County Grants/Scholarships
* Community Grants/Scholarships

#3 Make a List of What You Love about Each College

It doesn't don't have to be the same thing for each college either. For example, on the University of California, Santa Cruz campus, there are 10+ colleges all with unique things about them. If you want to and if you are that OCD, you can do that for each college with the university if you wish. Then you can compare all your colleges overall. 

#4 Make Visits to Each College if You Can or Do a Virtual Tour

This may seem like a no brainer, but it is vital. It is a commitment, in my mind, almost close to buying a house. Because this is what name will be on your college diploma and degree. If you know that you like that college already without seeing it, that is great. However, many people are not like that. If you can't, for whatever reason, visit the college in person, many have acclimated to the times and have virtual tours on their websites. If you go there, you can do a virtual tour. 

#5 Make a List Based on Your Visits or Tours

When you go, either during or after, make a list, similar to #3, about what you like about it or did not like about the campus. Sometimes you can love the program, but let's admit it. If you don't like the college campus, chances are you are not going to be enthusiatic about going to class every day. 

#6 Look Into the Requirements of the Major You are Thinking of

This is very important. Just because the school overall is ranked well doesn't make your major/degree you will graduate with, is just a prestigious. You need to make sure that you are being taught well, that you are in a competitive program, and that you are going to do well in it. 
If you are double majoring, do both! Then compare all the colleges programs.

#7 Look Up the Department, Contact Them, See if They Have a Mentor or Guidance Counseler

This may make you shy so it is not a must but if you have further questions, contact them. You will be paying them to teach you so it can be good to hear from the horse's mouth more about why they should be your department. I suggest making a list of questions and when you contact in the different schools, ask them all the same questions so you can adquately compare. 

#8 Look into Clubs and Extras for Each School

An example would be that I was a deejay in college. This would be a great way to see for me, how good those radio stations are and what they can provide me. This goes for anything you want to do. So again, compare all your schools across the board. Write it down. 

#9 Look into Housing/Living Costs Both In and Out of the School

This is and can be super important as well. When you are not living next to families that can support you, you need to be sure you can easily live off what the college gives you. Most of the time you can but it is always wise to do your own research. 

Don't just compare on campus. You want to compare off campus as well. Sometimes you are only guaranteed housing on campus your first year. Some colleges don't even have on campus housing. 

With housing- think about parking, how many room mates, cycling, etc. This are all important aspects regardless if you are on or off campus. 

#10 Match the "Personality" of the School to Your Personality- Do They Jive?

This is important. For example, a friend of mine HAS to be next to an ocean because he surfs. He will not live or school anywhere without an ocean accessible for surfing in the morning. This is very important to him. 

If you are a city person, do you want to go to a rural school? If you are rural, do you want to go into a city for school?

#11 Write Down Your Deal Breakers

If you have things you can't deal with, write them down now and don't waste your time. You need to be completely honest with yourself. If you hate being next the water, any schools near beaches may be out of the question. 

#12 What Do Friends and Family Think? 

Don't rely soley on what friends and family say but factor it in. They may know something about you that fits or doesn't fit a college or it's lifestyle that you do not. They can also confirm with what you do or don't know already.

#13 What Kind of Networking Do You Have for This College?

This means do you have a uncle or aunt or friend of the family that know people who can help mentor your through your journey? This can be invaluable to your journey. 

#14 Take Space and Don't Think About It!

Maybe the best of all. Seriously. I am writing this on Easter to help my sister with her journey. Ironic, isn't it? Bake cookies. Go for a walk. Go the beach. Play a game. Talk to a long lost friend about anything but this choice. Take a nap. See a movie. You can come up with tons of ways to divert your brain. And you should. 

If you don't, your decision will be muddled with stress and anxiety. It will not become the experience you have always wanted and then you may feel you regret your decision- regardless if it is the right one or not because you will have the doubt. 

I know. Trust me. Take... a... Break! 

#15 Gut Instinct

There is something to be said for gut instinct. Knowing that you are good enough for any school you got into is top of the list. If you know it isn't for you, you know. If you know you want to consider it,  you know. At the end of the day, meditate, pray, do whatever way you do in which you truly listen to your gut!

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