I got lucky. When I went to U.C. Santa Cruz, I thought it would be the worst. I really wanted to be at the ever-prestigious and renowned U.C. Berkeley, and even with a high SAT score, my relatively low GPA wasn't enough to cut it.
But by my second year in college, I realized: U.C. Santa Cruz was the best place for me. The teachers were dynamic and encouraged discussion. The city was beautiful, relaxing, and the perfect place to study. The student body was small enough so I could stand out. It was perfect.
Of course, you don't want to leave it up to luck. But most parents and students don't look at the college from many different angles before deciding on a college. Powerhouse schools have a lot of brand power, but you want a school that doesn't just have great academics and prestige, but that matches your personality, tastes, learning style, location preferences, and more. Here are three hints for picking colleges that will help you find your perfect match.
1. Know How You Learn
Knowing your learning style is important. Your "learning style" is defined as the best way you engage with the learning process. When you use your learning style, you are very comfortable learning material. When you're not, it can be a challenge. One example of a learning style is called "interpersonal." This is when you learn by engaging socially with others.
So, if there is a big school where lectures are crammed with students, and you are an interpersonal learner, this may not be the school for you. While there are ways to work around it, you may be happier at a college with smaller class sizes. Professors tend to encourage more engagement and discussion from their students in these environments. Click here for more info about learning styles.
2. Know Your Interests -- or How to Find Them
If you already know what you want to be, great! If you want to be a doctor, I'm sure you've already researched the best schools for medical science. If you don't know what you want to be, and you don't even really know what you're interested in, not too worry.
The best thing to do in this case is do a process of elimination. If you know without a doubt that you are not interested in math or science, pursue a liberal arts school that fits you and your learning style. But if you don't want to cross that off the list--and it's a good idea not to--then look for a well-rounded college that will offer a wide variety of programs.
3. Location, location, location!
People overlook this often, but it shouldn't be taken lightly: where your school is can be a deal-maker or a deal-breaker. If you need to be accessible to your family, you'll have to pick one close to home. If you know a small town will bore the death out of you, look for the big city. But also be cautious about your reasons: if it's because you want to be close to friends or you're scared of moving too far away, be honest with yourself. These are not things that should weigh on an important life decision.
Being honest with yourself is really the biggest piece of advice I can give you. I hope these three hints have been helpful in finding your perfect match!