We suggest you weigh this perspective as about 15% of your decision. While academics clearly reigns first in the overall equation, in college you are only in class for about half the time you were in high school. While you will have a lot more homework and studying to do, you will also have a lot of free time. You need to start thinking about what’s really important to you.
Clubs: Are you involved in any clubs in high school that you want to continue in college? Or have you always wanted to be a part of a club but never had the time? Examples include dance, debate, drama, movies/film society, political organizations, student government, music, theater, etc. Colleges want to see that you will be a valued member of their college community and that you will be involved on campus. Even if you have no interest in any clubs or organizations right now, we highly encourage that you try to find something you could be involved in once you get there. Remember, if you don’t see a club offered that you would really love to be a part of, don’t be afraid to try to start your own club or team. Colleges and future employers love initiative! If for nothing else, remember there’s often free food at club and organization meetings!
Sports & Athletics: Are you into sports? If so, think about if you want to play at the college level. Many colleges have many different sports to choose from at many different levels. Usually, college sports will be at the Division I, II, or III level. If you don’t want to play at the Div I, II, or III level, consider joining the sport at the club or intramural level. Generally, club sports regularly participate in scheduled practices and employ part-time coaches. Intramurals are teams of students competing against other students within that college, while club teams compete against other schools across the state and even the nation. Usually, intramurals do not offer coaching or regular organized practices. Alternatively, are you just into working out and being active? If so, make sure that the athletic and recreational facilities on campus are up to your standards.
Greek Life: Are you interested in joining a fraternity or sorority? Sometimes Greek life can get a bad reputation for being nothing but a non-stop party. However, at many schools, Greek life can offer an opportunity for students to develop socially and intellectually. You will be able to meet students of various backgrounds and enjoy a close bond of friendship and brotherhood/sisterhood with other students who can become a support network for you. At some schools, one of the primary purposes of the fraternity/sorority community is to develop high scholastic achievement within. There may be peer tutoring, upperclassman counseling, and study hours. In a fraternity or sorority there may be opportunities for leadership and socialization, as well as community service and athletics. Do some research to see if you may like to pursue these activities. Many schools will have information or interest sessions where you can learn more and ask questions. Furthermore, some schools will not allow students to pledge until their second semester freshman year or their first semester sophomore year.
Religious Community: If being part of a religious community is important to you and your beliefs, make sure that your future colleges offer such. Consider applying to a religious specific college, or at the very least make sure that there are religious organizations and support systems in place at your schools if that is important to you. At most schools with religious communities, students can participate in worship services, various faith-centered clubs and organizations including community service and social justice activities.
Community Service: Colleges (and future employers) want to see that you are involved on campus and love to see that you’ve been involved in community service endeavors. See what colleges offer in terms of community service clubs and opportunities. Many colleges will have rich community service groups that will connect students to service opportunities domestically and internationally.
Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC): ROTC is a college program that prepares young adults to become officers in the U.S. Military. In exchange for a paid college education and a guaranteed post-college career, cadets commit to serve in the Military after graduation. Each Service branch (Army, Navy & Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard) has its own take on ROTC. If you are seriously considering ROTC, make sure your colleges offer ROTC in your specific Service branch and make sure you are well informed.
Overall, you want to go to a school that meets your social needs in addition to your academic ones. As I mentioned before, although you are going to school primarily for academics, you will obviously have a life outside of class. Be sure you know what you want and that your colleges offer what you want.
In addition, it’s important to understand that being at the right school that meets most if not all of your needs makes the college experience much more enjoyable. Don’t just apply to where your friends are applying, where your parents went, where your boyfriend or girlfriend attends, or where you think you can afford – instead of applying to the “right fit” college for you. You will be limiting yourself unnecessarily and choosing the wrong school will result in lost time and money in the end. Don’t settle!
Remember, this is your future and this process cannot be completed overnight. Get thinking! What’s important to you?
Any additional tips to share? Leave your comments!
About Smart Track™ Toolkit: The toolkit is a web based service that assists families with everything from admissions and test prep, to student athletics and financial aid. Our intuitive software and on-demand workshops are key components to making sure students find their top choice colleges, and families can afford to send them there.
About the author:
Laura Guarino is the Student Services Coordinator with the College Resource Center, LLC. Laura has a degree in Human Development from and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in School Guidance Counseling. She is also enrolled in a certificate program in College Admissions Counseling. Laura is at the forefront of the college admissions process for the families of The Smart Track™ Toolkit. Boston College
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