5 Ways to Choose a College That Is Right for You

Last updated: Feb 14, 2018

You’ve probably heard your friends say it. You may have even asked this question yourself: “How do I find the perfect college for me?” There are 4,000+ colleges and universities in the U.S. You’re going to “fit” at hundreds. It may be time to consider that it’s less about finding the perfect school and more about finding one where you will belong. Use the five tips below to help you choose a college that is right for you.

5. Don’t Just Rely on the Online College Profile and Statistics

Sure, finding a college with a specific size, location and student body makeup are all important factors to consider, but these details shouldn’t necessarily dictate your final decision. Keep an open mind and consider colleges that don’t check all those boxes and weren’t initially on your radar.

Don’t be afraid to question some preconceived notions you have regarding a particular school. Explore why you really have strong feelings, good or bad, towards a particular college. You may be surprised how little you actually know about the school. Plus, colleges and universities are constantly changing. What was true of a school just a few years ago may not be true anymore.

There are many intangibles and less obvious factors to consider besides the brochure facts and your initial opinion. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish, and set goals for yourself each semester. This could include social, academic, or career objectives. Writing down these ideas will help identify schools where you can accomplish these goals. Even if your goals change, understanding what’s important to you can help you figure out if a college really is right for you.

4. Get Input from People Who Know You Well

We get it. You may be tired of all the questions from your parents and relatives about your college plans and career. So, maybe it’s time to ask them some questions instead. Pick out a few adults in your life who you trust, and ask them for their advice. These can be your parents, other relatives, teachers, family friends, or your college counselor. Just make sure they know you well and you trust their judgment.

What do you ask these trusted adults? Well, they know you, and they also have career and life experience. Talk to them about your goals and interests, and ask them to help you narrow down careers and possible colleges that align with your passions. You can also ask some questions about their transition from high school to college:

  • How did you pick your college?
  • What would you have done differently?
  • Did your goals change during college?
  • How did your degree help lead you to your career?  

Chances are you’ll be surprised by some of the great ideas sparked by these conversations. And at the worst, it’ll keep them off your back with all the questions.

A father and a mother help their daughter with a college application.

3. Look for a College with a Supportive Culture

You want a college where the culture allows you to feel supported while you grow and learn. Your years as an undergrad student will be a time when you explore new ideas and challenge many assumptions you hold. You need a college culture where you will feel comfortable and supported through this process.

But what makes a college’s culture elastic and supportive? You want to look for an institute of higher learning that’s dedicated to student success and one that will stretch with students, to support them properly when they need it. This includes offering a variety of campus resources, extracurricular programs, and a network of support.

For instance, USF has won national praise for placing student success at the center of everything we do. We strive to continuously create an environment where every student, from every walk of life, can be challenged and succeed.

2. Consider the College Journey.

You want to find an institution where you can get the most out of your college journey. Going to college is, and should be, about more than just academics. You’ll learn about who you are, where you’re going, and what type of impact you’ll make in the world. That can be a lot to take in, so finding a place that is able to support you on multiple fronts at the right time is an important aspect to the search.

Different types of colleges offer different types of experiences. While smaller schools may offer a stronger community feel, large universities enable you to forge lasting friendships among the larger student body. Many large universities also work hard to provide a close-knit community feel with special programs, organizations, and groups.

At USF, one of our greatest college culture assets is diversity. With our system’s large international student body representing over 145 different countries, you’re sure to get the chance to connect with students who come from a different background. We also feature students from all 50 states and all 67 Florida counties.

1. Get a Hands-On Feel for a College’s Culture.

Sometimes the best way to get a feel for a college’s atmosphere and culture is to visit. Visiting campus on a campus tour is the obvious answer, but sometimes it’s best to venture off on your own before or after an official tour. Ask a current student for perspective, chat with the staff in an office that’s not admissions, or just spend some time people-watching.

Remember, you’ll want to get off campus once you’re a student, so make sure to explore the outside community to see what is offered as well. You might be surprised to find nature parks, theaters, malls, and other attractions nearby.

While you’re touring a college, don’t forget to take in an event on-campus, such as a preview or open house event. These are traditionally held in the fall and are an opportunity to see things on a larger scale. Stampede to Success is our fall open house opportunity for high school students and their families that’s a must-see for anyone interested in USF.

If you’re ready for an official tour, you can join us for the Campus Visit Experience, which is your opportunity to hear from current students about their life here. The Office of Admissions also does outreach events in Florida and in select areas around the U.S. to give a glimpse of life on campus.

Can’t make it to campus right now? No problem. Our virtual tour is a brand new addition that gives you the ability to explore the campus from your smartphone or computer. The point is, most colleges give you multiple options for exploring campus besides the traditional campus tour.

As you narrow down which college culture best suits you and your goals, our USF Admissions team is happy to answer any questions you may have about becoming a USF Bull. Contact us online or by phone at (813) 974-3350 to speak with us today.