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I want to share with you some of the most valuable questions I asked myself when I was deciding where to go to college, as well as some things I didn't ask myself but wish I had. I've sorted these into categories for your convenience. These may help you with note-taking during tours or while exploring websites. They might aid you in deciding where to apply or deciding which of your admittances to accept. Regardless, I earnestly hope they help; this is a complex process, but a little logic, reflection, and self-awareness go a long way.

1. Location & Size

  1. What kind of environment would I like to go to college in? (A good way to rephrase this question is—where am I now? A rural, suburban, or urban area? What do I like about that? Dislike? Do I want to try something different?)
  2. What is within walking distance of the campus? What are my transportation options outside of walking? Is there public transport? Are cars allowed?
  3. What opportunities (career, leisure) are near this school?
  4. How far from my family and support network am I willing to be? Do I want to go to a place where I know no one?
  5. What size school will benefit me the most? (Once again, comparison to your current situation helps. What's the size of your high school, and what do you find to be the benefits and drawbacks of that size?) Do I want to see familiar faces when I'm in class, or would I prefer to be at a large school where I am always surrounded by new people?
    View from an airplane
    Are you willing—or perhaps even eager—to hop on a plane or two to get to your future college?

    2. Academics
  6. What do I like and dislike about my current education?
  7. How important is doing undergraduate research to me? How about mentorship? Study abroad? Independent research? (You should be able to find statistics about undergraduate research, student-to-faculty ratios, and so on, which guide you here based on your answers.)
  8. What are the general education or liberal arts requirements of this school, if any? Do I want to take those classes and explore, or would I prefer to jump straight into my area of interest?
  9. How do current students describe the workload? Do I want a fast-paced schedule, or do I learn better when things are slower? Am I someone who loves a rigorous academic environment, or will that stress me out and perhaps prevent me from receiving my degree?
  10. What programs, areas of study, and resources does my school need to have for me to explore all my options or chase my dreams?
  11. How flexible is the academic program if I want to pursue my own unique path or change my mind about my major? How much does it matter to me?

3. Outcomes

  1. What do alumni say about this school?
  2. What are my personal goals right now? Do I want to continue my education after undergraduate? (It helps to have a narrow and broad answer to this question: i.e., a specific job you're interested in AND a more general sense of I'd like to live in X kind of place, I'd like to make Y amount of money.)
  3. What does this school's Office of Institutional Research say are recent graduate's outcomes after leaving this school? How much do they make? Are they getting into graduate and professional schools?

4. Finances

  1. How much debt, approximately, will I have after leaving this school? (Many schools have financial aid calculators you can use, and their broad policies on financial aid are also helpful.)
  2. What are the restraints on financial aid? Is it available to me specifically (for instance, if you're an international student)? Must I maintain a specific GPA? Is financial aid at this school furnished by loans I will need to repay? 
  3. How does this school determine financial aid packages? Need alone, or need and merit?
  4. What are my family and I willing to pay for my college education?

5. Quality of Living

  1. Is the food good? (Especially important to research if you have a dietary restriction and how the school is equipped to manage that—you should be able to find this information through the school's dining team.)
  2. What are my nearby healthcare options, and how accessible are they?
  3. How do people make friends here? Greek Life? Clubs? Sports? Residential houses? Am I willing to try those things? If not, am I willing to work a little harder to make friends outside of those circles?
  4. Is the campus well-kept and accessible? (Accessible means something different for everyone!)
  5. What are other things I'd like to have provided by the school? (Gym, library, movie theater, mental health services, etc.)
    View from my porch

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