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How Do I Find the Best College For Me?

One important factor in determining which college to apply to is whether the school is a good fit for you . Each year, U.S. News and World Report, and many others, publish a list of college rankings. The college rankings are big business for the publications and for the colleges. It can be hard not to get caught up in the rankings and the false idea that “if I doesn’t go to a top-ranked school, I won’t be successful.”

The fact of the matter is, a top-ranked school is not necessary for success. It doesn’t matter what a college is ranked if it’s not a good fit for you.

To find a good fit, you need to think about many factors, for example:

Majors offered: Does the college offer the major you're interested in? Will you do better at a school that teaches more practical skills, like Cal Poly’s “learn by doing,” or at a more theoretical school that teaches you how to think? If you haven’t chosen a major yet, take a look at the majors offered to see what interests you. You can look at the classes required for each major by checking out each college's catalog online. Aptitude tests are also a great idea if you're not sure what you want to do.

Size and location of campus: From a small liberal arts campus where students have the opportunity to get to know their professors, to a large research university, where students are autonomous and anonymous, it’s important to think about where you'll do your best. Likewise, do you prefer being close to home or far away? Do you want to be in a bustling city or a quiet suburb? Can you handle daily temperatures below zero? It is important for students who have never lived away from home to realistically ask, “Can I see myself here?”

Extracurricular Activities: Are you a football fanatic who wants to go to every game? Or are you into band, computers, or art? Colleges have different focuses, and it’s important to find a place where you can plug in and make friends.

Likelihood of Success: The college years are a time for students to build their knowledge and skills and also their self-confidence. Sometimes it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than to be struggling at the bottom of the food chain. A good fit for a student is one where they can succeed in their classes, feel comfortable speaking in class or at a professor’s office hours, and find academic help or tutoring if they need it. Mental health on campus is a big issue these days, with far too many students feeling anxious, depressed, and even suicidal.

The bottom line is, where will you thrive?


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