Finding A Good Fit For College
By John Livingston Clark
This article on finding a college is a composite of mostly my own thoughts along with some research. The bottom line is that a college or university must be a good “fit” for the student. Here are seven factors to bear in mind when making a decision about where to attend college.
Have A Clearly Defined Focus
Choosing a college begins with a clearly defined focus as to why you are going. It is possible to waste time and money if you do not know why you are going to college. This, of course, has to do with taking a personal inventory of your life. What is happening is that, too often, young people are getting degrees, but when they get a job in their chosen field they end up not liking it or they cannot find work. There is also the possibility that their chosen major is not a good fit for them. Have you ever heard the saying, “You have your ladder leaning against the wrong wall?” That means a person is trying to become successful at something he or she is not meant to do. So, don’t go to college without doing some degree of thorough self-assessment with an end goal in view.
Don’t Just Choose A “Status College”
Don’t choose a college or university simply because it has status. For example, Harvard or Yale would be examples of status colleges that are very expensive and have a big name, but you must ask the question as to why you want to go there. Are you going there only because they have a big name or because that is the place to go to receive the type of education you want?
Christian Versus Secular Colleges
If you are a Christian or religious person you might be making choices between religious or secular institutions. Do not go to a college just because it is religious based. Some Christian colleges or universities are very conservative and legalistic. They may have very sheltered and dogmatic beliefs, not allowing any room for different theological persuasions. On the other hand secular colleges may be so liberal and morally deficient that unless you have a strong spiritual life based upon uncompromising convictions, they could destroy your faith.
If you are a religious person it is important that you stay spiritually connected while you are away at college. Does the secular college have a strong and vibrant campus ministry like Campus Crusade for Christ, or some other similar outreach and body of fellowship? Are there good local churches in the area with college or career ministries?
How far away is the college or university from your family and home base? Is it within relatively easy driving distance? Can you come home on weekends, or can your parents come to visit you? Don’t move so far away if you you don’t have to, when it means shutting out your family or makes it very difficult to stay connected to them, or they to you. Phone calls now and then are not sufficient. There must be visitation. Remember, you are still their adult child, and they are still your parents.
Academics & College Life
Obviously, it goes without saying that you want an institution that is the best one for your particular major and that fits you as a person. Here are several questions to ask. Is there more emphasis on research or on teaching? How accessible are the career and guidance counselors? What about the class size? Is the college or university nationally recognized in your field of study? The main question to ask is “Which college or university will help you best get to where you want to be academically four years from now?”
We all know that higher education is very expensive, but why pay more than you have to? Cost will always be a factor unless one is awarded a sizable scholarship. Try to cut costs by attending a state university or community college for the first two years. It is not wise to attend an expensive institution and then have to repay a huge college loan for years to come. Seek to make it through college without a big loan hanging over your head through a work-study program or financial aid that does not have to be paid back.