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What to look for in a college...

How do I know what colleges to look at if I do not know what I want to major in? What should I look for in a college to know if it is right for me?

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Subject: Career question for you

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Pablo’s Answer

This might be an unpopular opinion, but to be honest, unless you have a lot of connections, it will ultimately not matter all that match to where college you go, but how much you care about what you're learning.
I personally had no idea what I wanted out of college, and this is completely normal (although, not a lot of people talk about it). It's, I believe, more normal to now know what you want to spend your life on as a teenager, than it is to know, if you ask me.
Start broad, think about things that interest you, even if they're not jobs, topics like arts, politics, people, teaching, sports, whatever it is and then pick something that remains broad for a bit.
In doing so, you'll have the opportunity to learn about these fields and see if they really fulfill you or not. You can always continue to go deeper into those topics or correct and try a new one.
Sometimes you will graduate and not work on your field, and that's also completely ok. But the knowledge you carry with you will always apply in some form or another. Don't feel forced to choose something and craft an identity of "who you are" through it. What we are changes constantly and so do our interests.

Short story is, start with something that sounds exciting and try it out, talk to people in the field and ask them what they feel. If you fall out of love with it, change it. Change is evolution and that's the most important part.
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Chris’s Answer

Consider what other aspects of the college experience are important to you - location, school size, reputation, dining options, extracurricular opportunities, cost. Most schools have great academics all around, even if they may be stronger in particular areas so if you don't know what you want to do, look at these other areas. Try to think about if you like being in big class rooms (100+ students) or smaller discussion based class rooms. Think about how far from home you want to live, and any potential in state tuition benefits. There are lots of great websites that rate colleges on many factors beyond just academics.

Obviously, it is important for the school to have a good academic reputation, but most universities meet a pretty high level of quality. Once you get there, you can try different classes and explore different things to figure out what you want to study.
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David’s Answer

Hi Ava, this is a great question. I would suggest picking a few potential majors/areas of interest to research. Your major isn't necessarily the most important thing to know right out of school. You can always change your major or double major if uncertain your entire college career. I majored Political Science and Economics because I was torn between going into law or finance. What you don't want to do is go to a school that doesn't offer something you are interested in. For example, if you have any interest in being an engineer you wouldn't want to go to a school without an engineering program. Below are some criteria I would consider when evaluating a school (in no particular order of importance)
• College rankings
• Quality of the program(s)/majors you are interested even if you are not 100% certain on your major
• Companies that recruit there
• Resources of the school (ex: facilities, research opportunities, career services, distinguished faculty, number of programs/majors offered, student groups)
• Size and location (urban/suburban, region, university vs. college)
• Culture of the student body
• Cost and average starting salary for students in your major(s) you are interested in
I suggest touring all schools you are strongly interested in if possible. When you tour a given school make sure to sit in on a real class so you can get a feel for what going to school there would be like. I would also suggest talking to current students about their experience at the school. It is an important decision but ultimately you always have options if your interests change or you don't enjoy the school. Out of high school I thought I wanted to go to school in a big city but after my freshman year I realized that I wanted a more traditional college experience. I ended up transferring to a large public university and I loved it. I hope that helps.

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Inga’s Answer

If you don't know what you want to major in, I recommend picking a college that has business, arts, and sciences so you have options as you pick your major. Make sure they have a good alumni and internship program so you can get experience through the school. I would pick a state school to lower the cost of education, but not one that is overcrowded so you can easily graduate in 4 years.
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karyn’s Answer

Make sure it's accredited, some fields will not hire you because of this reason, and what a serious backdrop, waste and disappointment for all your time and hard work.
Research and ask questions to current students enrolled about the difference in tuition and classes taken, sometimes a University looks real good but may not be better than a junior college, or a technical vocational school, it depends on how the curriculum is taught and by whom; see if the hands on training and the longevity of classes are more beneficial than the compared. The end result is to ask yourself if you want to come out debt free or in debt when looking for position placement in your new earned career. I had a choice, and chose to stay at my city's junior college due to the fact medical and health care saw and loved the education students were given versus the education given at the University. Just like mom said regarding reputation and friends " you are who you hang out with" this also includes the right reputation in choosing schools, but it is the hiring boss letting you know " you are who you hang out with."
Good luck!
Thank you!
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Kimanu’s Answer

Have you taken an aptitude test of any sort?? Do you know of any personal interests that may translate over to college that you would like to pursue?? College is a great time to discover yourself meet great people and really find out what you are really all about. Everyone doesn't pick a major right off the bat , an academic advisor will give you guidance along g the way. Typically going I to sophomore year things may tend to point you in a certain direction, but sometimes things may change and go a different way. There's no pressure just let it happen organically. Good luck
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Elyse’s Answer

Hi Ava,

This is a wonderful question! Choosing a college is an important decision, and it is ok to choose one without knowing your major. Here are some considerations:

- Choose a school that offers a wide range of majors and quality departments in many different subjects. Even if you don't know what your major will be, consider your strengths and interests and what some potential avenues of study might be. You will want to choose a school that offers as many of those areas as possible. Many state schools + large universities will fit this bill, but there are also a number of smaller schools that offer a wide range of studies.

- Speaking of large vs. small universities, size of a school is another important consideration. While large universities offer the chance to be exposed to a greater range of people and opportunities, it can also leave you feeling anonymous or left out. Small universities give you the opportunity to be better known between students and staff, but may offer a more limited range of connections.

- In addition to size, location of the school is an important factor to consider. Do you want to live close to home or be able to visit frequently? Are you looking for the opportunity to move somewhere new? College requires a lot of adjusting, so you will want to choose a place where you will feel safe and able to adjust the other aspects of your life.

- Finally, and especially without knowing your potential major, choosing a school that has a wide range of extracurricular activities will be important. Some of the most important connections you'll make in college will be in student organizations, clubs, and teams. Whatever your interests are, you want to find somewhere with likeminded students to make friends and connections!

I highly recommend visiting as many schools as you can to see if you can picture yourself as a student there. Best of luck in your search!
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Jonathan’s Answer

Based on your budget, you could focus on a city or state you wanted to explore more, then figure out what colleges in that area were nationally known for. State colleges/universities generally have a fairly wide range of classes, so I think as long as you avoid a specialized school that only really focuses on one career or type of career you should be fine. Use your Freshman and Sophomore years to explore as many different types of courses as you can to try and figure out which you find the most interesting.

Ultimately though, your major does not define your life! I ended up in a fairly general major (Communication) that could apply to lots of career paths, but I know plenty of people that focused on a major that ended up having nothing to do with their job after college.

Bottom line, spend your time exploring different classes, student groups, and hobbies... and don't worry too much about what your final major may be. Find a school you can afford in an area you want to spend some time in, and go from there.
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david’s Answer

Hi, Ava,
This is a great question to be asking now, as you can start building a framework of what you need in a college. An old saying I'll share" "You can make a university small, but you can't make a small college big." By that, should you reach the point of going to college with no idea of what you want in life, the bigger school will provide more opportunities. My first suggestion is to rough out basic areas of interest, as that may help you remove colleges that do not offer that major. Second, I suggest visiting as many colleges as possible, because each one offers its own personality, and there will be one or more that strongly attracts you, possibly for its academic offerings, but also for its campus spirit and local environment. You will be there for several years, and you will want a place that you like. For example, you may find that colleges with broad grassy campus grounds and all buildings close is attractive, whereas a large university in a big city may be the one that seems a better fit. You get this knowledge only by a personal visit. And, while I may seem dismissive of your major, I encourage you to find the college that "feels right" and start there. Your interests will emerge more quickly than you might imagine, and you will discover that there are many paths that will challenge and satisfy your desires. All the best to you.
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Susan’s Answer

Hi Ava,

Great question! And very difficult as well

Our recommendation is to find a school that you feel comfortable with - as far as size, what area of education or programs you are looking for, in-state vs. out of state tuition, and any interests you have but also try to identify schools within an Internship. This will help you determine if the path you have chosen is what you want and can alter as needed.

Hope this helps
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Anya’s Answer

College is a huge step that is going to impact the next 2-4 years of your life so I am so glad you are reaching out on this platform! I would begin by looking into the types of organizations that are present on campus. Consider your hobbies and interests and see if there are clubs related to them. This will give you an opportunity to meet new people and find communities that will give you space you to indulge in your interests. These types of communities are where you will go to take a break from your new college responsibilities. I would try to read about and visit the colleges that are closest to you. You will get a feel of the faculty, student community, and energy of the school.
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Ajin’s Answer

Hi Ava, that's a great question! Everyone asks that question to themselves, their peers, mentors, industry folks and everyone else possible. This helps to get a diverse perspective of different academic tracks and careers. I am glad you have initiated this. The first step would be, to do some research on majors available and try to envision if doing this would really make you happy and if this is something that your passionate about doing for the next 15-20 years of your life. This is an article you can start with, which gives a brief about popular majors available -https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/most-popular-majors. Further also consider taking an aptitude and personality test to give you more insight on what might be best for you. This is a good resource to check- https://www.truity.com/view/tests/personality-career

Once you have narrowed down to what major you would like to pursue, consider reaching out to few folks who have already done the selected major and those who have started practice in industry. Also, it would be helpful if you can talk to few professors who teach those majors as they would be able to answer specific academic related questions. Doing this groundwork, would ensure that you have got a broad view of the major and career that this path would lead you too.

After you have understood and decided on a major, you would want to research on various colleges that teach this major. Few aspects to consider before choosing a college would be,

A. Institution Ranking
B. Quality of Faculty
C. Popularity of Program
D. Alumni Feedback
E. Tuition cost
F. Location
G. ACT/SAT scores

Once the above checklist has been considered, the next step would be to reach out to the target universities/ colleges and ask if you could do a tour of the campus. Although this would seem the least important, it gives you an opportunity to see how the campus life is in these universities and makes you think if you would be a right fit here. You can try to explore the different campus clubs and facilities available for students associated with this major.

After having chosen a major and narrowed down to a list of visited universities. I would recommend comparing the pros and cons of each and decide. Often, we would have already found which is the right fit by now.

Hope this helps. Good luck on choosing the right major and right college!
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Megan’s Answer

Hello,
What a wonderful time in your life, deciding the right path for yourself! I would advise you to look at the colleges most popular degrees, graduation rates, location, and definitely visit the campus. When you are there ask yourself, "Is this a place I can see myself spending and ENJOYING the next 2-8 years (depending on your study). Alot of people forget how important these things are. I knew as soon as I walked around campus it was the right one for me to spend the next 4 years. Tour ALOT of schools. You will find the one for you!
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Tom’s Answer

Figure out if what you want to do in life requires college.
Figure out if the college has what you want, is where you want to be, and is the kind of environment you want.

The best college is the one that YOU want to be a part of.
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Maggie’s Answer

I currently work full time as an Admissions Counselor for an Online School and some of the most important factors are COST, TIME, and what you're looking to gain or benefit from after getting your degree. I would look into possibly attending a local community college where you may be able to attend for FREE as a 1st time college student or your tuition may be much lower. After that if you want to get your B.S degree you can transfer your credits to a 4-year University and save you some time and money. College has always been and will always be an investment. So when you're deciding on what college to choose and what degree to get, try and find a college where you will have little to no debt when you graduate, and a college that will allow you to get your degree in a shorter period of time. The education or knowledge you get from a school will depend largely on you and how much you put into it and how you apply what you learn. At the end of the day, no one will care or devote more energy or time into your goal and dreams that you do, so make sure you choose a school that aligns with your lifestyle and future goals you have for yourself.
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