How to Choose a College that’s Right for You [+ Complete Admission Guide]

When it comes to making the most important decisions of our lives, some of us find the experience nerve-racking. Picking schools is one of those decisive moments that can be an anxiety-filled mess. It’s not surprising, considering how much is at stake when choosing a college.

If you found yourself in this confusing situation, this article is for you. Here, you will learn everything you need about choosing the right college. We will also guide you through the admission process and give some additional tips.

And, of course, our 100% free essays will be a great help to any business student!

🔍 How to Find a Suitable College in 7 Steps

If only choosing a college was as easy as deciding what to eat for breakfast! Unfortunately, it is not. It takes time, and many factors are at play here. But don’t worry: we will show you how to pick a suitable college in just 7 steps.

The picture shows the steps in finding a suitable college.

1. Choose a Major That Suits Your Career Goals

It’s great if you have already given some thought to what you want to do professionally. All you need now is to find a major that can aid you on your path to your dream career. Browse all the options and see which one can benefit you most.

If you have yet to decide what your career goal is, it’s okay, too. The most important thing at this point is finding out what interests you. The best strategy is to do the following:

  1. Think about the things that have always grabbed your attention in class.
  2. Research the study programs of all the colleges you see yourself attending.
  3. Make a list of the majors that correspond to your interests.
  4. See if anything sparks your passion.

It’s best to start thinking as soon as possible. You don’t have the luxury of making last-minute choices when you don’t know what you’re looking for!

2. Consider Your Emotional Needs

A famous Oriental proverb says: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” The same goes for college. If you choose to study what you genuinely love, you won’t find yourself wishing you didn’t have to go to class or do homework.

Make sure you take care of your mental health and mind your emotional needs. They are just as relevant as everything else when it comes to studying. Ask yourself:

❓ Will I be happy at this college?You can visit campus before proceeding with your application to see if the atmosphere is right for you. What if the college is excellent, but you just don’t feel comfortable there? Are you ready to spend a few years in this place?
❓ Am I thinking for myself?It’s not the best idea to copy your friends’ choices when selecting your major. Try to figure out which option will suit you best and bring out your best qualities.
❓ Is everything at the college suitable for me?Make sure the school can give you the best education in the most convenient and stress-free way. Try to check out the facilities, find out some information about the professors, and maybe even interview a few students to ensure you make the right choice.

3. Think about the Location

You may be thinking that location is the last thing to worry about while choosing a school. This couldn’t be further from the truth! There are plenty of aspects worth considering:

Finances
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  • If you’re on a budget, choosing a college right in your hometown or even near your home may do you good. There will be fewer expenses and no need to pay rent.
  • In some cases, living on campus or studying abroad can be expensive. If you can afford it, then go for it.
Transportation🚗
  • If you neither have a car nor desire to get one, consider a college in an urban area. Thanks to public transport, you’ll easily have access to most places you want to go.
  • If you have a car or a bike, getting around a vast campus of a small-town college will be easy for you.
Culture
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  • The activities provided on campus should suit your hobbies and needs. If you choose a college in a big city, there will be no shortage of activities.
  • A smaller city might be less exciting but offer a cozier experience.
Networking
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  • Besides a superb choice of activities, a big city college can offer you more opportunities to build business connections.

4. Mind Your Financial Situation

A good financial fit should be your top priority. You need to understand clearly what you can afford. If you can pay off your student debt relatively easily, you’re on the right track.

Here are a few ways to ensure you won’t be getting yourself in trouble:

  • Discuss your family’s available resources. Verify that your relatives have got your back and that it will not leave them broke.
  • Compare financial aid packages. Don’t just assume that the biggest one is the best one.
  • Factor in other expenses. Costs of traveling, eating out, buying groceries, and entertainment all add up and can turn an otherwise fitting college into a money pit.
  • Calculate return of investments. Compare how much you will be earning once you’re out of college vs. how much you have to invest in your education.

5. Learn about College Life & Academics

Once you have decided which colleges are within an acceptable price range, it’s time to look at the educational program and the after-school activities offered. Here are the things worth exploring:

  • Academics. You need answers to the following questions: who are the teachers? How much time will you spend in class or studying on your own? Are there any group discussions to participate in? What research facilities are available to you?
  • Extracurricular activities. While choosing your major and college, it’s easy to forget about what students do outside class. However, they also constitute a considerable part of college life. What sport can you play in the college of your choice? What about Greek life? How can you develop your abilities outside the academic field?

6. Check College Reviews & Rankings

When choosing a school, it’s a great idea to check out a few college reviews. There are a few trustworthy websites where students review their colleges and share interesting aspects of campus life. However, don’t rely too heavily on former students’ opinions—they can be biased.

Another option is to review college rankings. They are popular and prestigious sources of information regarding all things college, especially when it comes to business schools. Still, they’re not the be-all and end-all when it comes to making a choice. The best strategy is to only look at important metrics, such as the quality of teaching and research.

Thankfully, some university rankings are highly trustworthy, and you can use them as a starting point. Here are our favorites:

  • QS World University Rankings
    One of the top global ranking publishers, it factors in 6 metrics such as academic reputation, research citations, faculty/student ratio, and international student ratio.
  • Times Higher Education World University Rankings
    This ranking has existed since 2004. There is a total of 13 performance metrics, plus subject-specific rankings, global rankings, and regional ones.
  • Academic Ranking of World Universities
    This ranking is based on 6 metrics, including how many Nobel Prizes were won by the alumni and staff. The indicators also include the number of research citations and published articles.

7. Compare the Schools

Once you’ve narrowed your list of possible colleges, it’s time to compare them. To make the wisest possible choice, we recommend you make a college comparison spreadsheet. It’s an excellent way to organize information about different schools. Here’s what you can include in it:

  • basic information, such as location, number of students, etc.;
  • academic information, for example, admission requirements;
  • financial information: tuition fees, room and board price, etc.;
  • your own ideas, such as extracurricular activities.

🖥️ Choosing a College: Helpful Websites

If you don’t feel like compiling a comparison spreadsheet yourself, here are a few useful links for a quick and easy college search:

🌐 CollegeBoard

You can browse schools by location, major, type, and campus life. It is very convenient. However, there are gaps in the information, so we recommend you visit college sites as well.

🌐 College Stats

Here you can search for a college by degree, category, and subject. You can also browse by state. There are rankings available as well.

🌐 College Raptor’s College Match

This is an excellent tool for finding a good college based on your GPA and test scores, desired major, location, culture, and financial status.

🎓 How to Get into Your Dream College: Strategy for Success

Have you made up your mind about your ideal college? Great! Now comes an even more challenging process: application. How do you impress the committee and get into your dream school? Keep reading to find out!

The infographic shows the necessary steps in college application and mistakes to avoid.

✅ Mind the Application Deadlines

We cannot emphasize this enough: good planning is the key to a stress-free application process. The foolproof strategy is to make an extensive list, confirm the deadlines, and do everything possible to meet them.

Be careful when it comes to application deadlines—depending on the college you’re applying to, if you miss the deadline, you risk not being considered for admission. Here’s what you need to know about the deadlines:

  • The early decision deadline is in November. You will know whether you’ve been accepted by the end of December. The disadvantage is that you must enroll if you’re accepted.
  • The second early decision deadline is in January. You’ll know the decision in February, and enrolling is also obligatory if you’ve been accepted.
  • Early action is very similar to the early decision in terms of dates. The good thing is that you’re not obliged to enroll.
  • School’s regular decision deadline varies. Usually, it’s January 1st. The result will come in late March-early April.

✅ Make a College Application Checklist

You can make the college application process much more manageable if you make a comprehensive list of all the necessary things. Here’s what you need to impress the admission board—the people who make decisions about your future at their college:

✔️Class rank demonstrates how well you did academically compared to your classmates.
✔️Statement of purpose tells the admission board why you want to go to their college.
✔️Letters of recommendation demonstrate the respect you’ve garnered from teachers and mentors.
✔️Extracurricular activities, such as sports, show the range of your abilities and interests.
✔️Community service shows off your personal qualities better than anything else.
✔️Recognition for hard work in the form of awards and prizes can serve as a testament to your achievements.
✔️Cultural diversity is something that colleges love, so don’t forget to mention it (if it applies to you).
✔️Standard test scores are accepted by many colleges, so make sure you prepare well.
✔️Interview preparation will give you confidence. A good interview will have a colossal impact on the admission board’s final decision.

✅ Boost Your Academic Profile

Many colleges, though not all of them, require you to submit your test scores and grades. Standardized tests include SAT, ACT, and AP. You need to choose which one to take because there are a few differences:

  • SAT and ACT are similar since they’re both meant to show your readiness for college. SAT has two sections: Math and Evidence-based reading and writing. ACT has four: English, Science, Math, and Reading, plus an optional Writing test. If you can’t decide which one to take—take both. It’s been a growing trend among students in the last ten years. If you prefer to take just one, get advice from your school counselor.
  • AP stands for advanced placement, and students are usually expected to take an AP course before taking the exam. It is not obligatory, though. AP is beneficial not only because it allows you to take college-level courses but also because you may be granted advanced placement and get straight into advanced courses.

There’s also GPA—your grade point average. It is a single number that represents your performance in every school subject. You want to keep it high since some colleges pay attention to it. Luckily, not all colleges are interested in your GPA.

✅ Write an Excellent Admission Essay

The admission essay is considered one of the most challenging parts of the application process. Here are some valuable tips:

  • Don’t skip the instructions. Find out exactly what the college committee is expecting of you before you start writing.
  • Make a detailed plan so that you don’t forget any crucial details. Remember that an admission essay is only around 600 words long. Demonstrate your written skills in a clear, concise, and logical manner.
  • Think of a captivating introduction. It will help you catch the reader’s attention.
  • Write about meaningful life experiences. Think about the things that define you personally and make you stand out.
  • Don’t make things up! We’re sure you can find enough real-life experiences for 600 words.
  • You can ask for help from the admissions counseling service. If you’re struggling, they can check your essay and give you advice.
  • Proofread your essay a few times. It’s even better if you ask friends and family to help proofread.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the essay. Your test scores show how ready you are for college. Your admission essay is designed to reflect your personality, and it is every bit as interesting as it is challenging. This is your time to shine!

✅ Get Letters of Recommendation

Another way to convince the admission board is to present a good letter of recommendation. Great news: you won’t have to write anything yourself. Hopefully, you have worked hard throughout your school years to impress potential recommendation writers—teachers, coaches, employers, and others.

The picture describes how to get glowing letters of recommendation.

Now that the time has come to reap the fruits of your labor, remember this:

  • Find out how many letters are required. For some colleges, one letter is not enough.
  • Choose teachers who know you well and have seen you in your best moments.
  • Not all teachers know how to write a letter of recommendation. Look up tips online to make the job easier for them.
  • The letters should showcase your strong character traits but shouldn’t be excessively complimentary. The right positive tone and balance are crucial. Remember: a good recommendation letter should be glowing, not blinding.

✅ List Your Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities can help you demonstrate your personal qualities to the admission officers. A versatile person is well-developed and likely to possess the traits and skills needed for a successful academic career. It is crucial to set yourself apart if you’re applying to top colleges that are very competitive.

Hopefully, you have done enough extracurricular activities by now to present yourself in the best light. Now it’s time to skillfully write about them and explain why they make you a great future student.

  • Volunteer work. Walking dogs at a local shelter, helping elderly people with their groceries, planting trees, or cleaning streets—nothing says “I am a mature person” better than giving back to your community.
  • Sports. Doing sports requires determination, dedication, and persistence. All of these are great qualities to possess.
  • Arts, such as singing, acting, or painting. Creativity is an admirable asset for a business student, so be proud of it.
  • Debate club. Clearly expressing your ideas is another skill you shouldn’t omit from your application.
  • Your club. Maybe there was no club you wanted to join, so you started your own one. Be sure to mention it. Proactivity and organizational skills won’t go unnoticed.

This is not an exhaustive list of extracurricular activities, but you get the idea—take a hobby and show how it has developed you and what skills it has given you. Start with the most impressive ones! To make this section of the application more noticeable, make sure to attach recommendation letters from your clubs’ instructors.

✅ Visit the Campus Beforehand

No website will give you as much information about life at college as a campus tour will. If you’re choosing between a few schools, visiting them can help you make the final decision.

Campus tours offer applicants superb opportunities, such as a face-to-face meeting with an admission counselor. You can also meet other applicants, who may become your future classmates and friends. You’ll get a feel for the place and see if it’s a good fit for you.

When applying to college, we recommend you use Common App. This app allows you to apply to multiple colleges simultaneously. This way, you don’t need to repeatedly fill out the same information. More than 900 colleges accept the app, so you’ll likely find your dream school on the list.

🤯 10 College Application Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

To make the application process even more convenient for you, we’ve compiled a list of common mistakes and ways to avoid them. Print it out and consult it from time to time to make sure you’re on the right track:

  • Skipping the details.
    If you forget to include something important, you risk not being admitted because of a silly mistake. Make a list and double-check everything when you’re ready to send. Triple check!
  • Missing college application deadlines.
    If you forget dates easily, put a calendar on your wall and circle the deadlines for various colleges with different colors. Do not wait till the last moment to begin.
  • Making your resume too long.
    Longer isn’t better. Keep the length to two pages max; in other words: short, sweet, and to the point.
  • Writing a generic essay.
    A uniquely personal essay explaining who you are will help you get admitted. Clichés won’t.
  • Exaggerating your extracurricular activities.
    Honesty is the best policy. This saying applies to college applications and many other things in life. Don’t risk making a fool of yourself.
  • Only applying to prestigious schools.
    Just because the school is not on the list of top 25 colleges doesn’t mean it’s a bad school. It might be easier to get admitted, and it will still offer a worthwhile experience.
  • Not submitting optional test scores or essays.
    We see the word “optional,” but for admission officers, it means: “skip it, and we’ll see that you’re lazy.” Taking tests and writing essays might not be your idea of fun. However, including optional things will tell the admission board you’re a hard worker who puts in time and effort.
  • Posting inappropriate social media content.
    Everything matters in this day and age, even your posts on Facebook. It’s becoming increasingly popular to check applicants’ social media profiles to see who they are. Make posts demonstrating your extracurricular activities, and avoid posting anything you wouldn’t want the admissions team to see.
  • Giving mediocre interviews.
    Be genuine, sound interested, and make them feel like you want to study at this college. Don’t forget to say that you’re grateful for the opportunity.
  • Not taking the admission process seriously.
    If you make mistakes, forget things, miss dates, and behave like you don’t really care, this translates to a lack of effort. After you’ve compiled all the papers, review your entire application and check it against all the lists you have to ensure nothing is missing.

🔮 Bonus: How to Apply to College after a Gap Year

Taking a year off after graduation before going to college has been popular for decades. Millions of young people need to free themselves from the constraints of school life for a while. They want to understand what they truly want, discover something they didn’t know about themselves, try different jobs, or see other places and cultures.

It can be highly beneficial, but difficulties arise while applying to college after a gap year. Let’s see how to deal with them:

  • Applying to new colleges. Get in touch with your school teachers to see what application papers they still have. Find out if your recommendation letters are still available. If they’re not—do your best to contact your teachers and ask them to find the letters. They will not keep them forever, so do it now. Make sure your SAT or ACT scores are sent to the colleges in question.
  • Applying to colleges that turned you down. Now this one is a bit trickier. If they weren’t smitten with you the first time you applied, the odds are likely to be against you this time. Improve your chances by going to another college and applying for a transfer.
  • Applying to colleges that had admitted you before your gap year shouldn’t be a problem. Go for it!

While writing your admission essay, it is vital that you include information about your activities during your gap year. Sell it as an advantage by explaining how it has changed your perspective and shaped you as a person.

As you can see, getting admitted into college isn’t easy, but it can be made more manageable with the right mindset. We hope our tips will help you. Tell us which tips you’ve found useful and what your dream college is in the comment section. Best of luck with your application process!

🔗 References

  1. Why You Should Consider Financial Fit in Choosing a College: University of South Florida
  2. How To Calculate The ROI Of Your College Choice: Forbes
  3. University Rankings: How Do They Work and Are They Important?: The University of Sidney
  4. The Common App: Everything You Need to Know: U.S. News
  5. How to Get Into College – A Step By Step Guide to Getting Into College: ThoughtCo
  6. What College Rankings Really Measure – Hint: It’s not Quality or Value: The Conversation
  7. World University Rankings – Analysis: The Guardian
  8. The Return to Investment in Education: OECD
  9. College Application Checklist: Khan Academy
  10. How To Choose A College That’s Right For You: NPR
  11. Gap Years – Ideas and Things to Think About: UCAS
  12. Gap Year: UMBC
  13. The 7 Most Common Mistakes Kids Make on Their College Applications: Insider