I'm a firm believer in the idea that there is no such thing as your "perfect college." I had an amazing four years at my school, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I wouldn't be as happy somewhere else. That being said, I do know that there are certain schools that wouldn't have been a great fit for me, even if those schools were a dream college for my friends. College is about growing and learning new things about yourself, but it's what you already know about yourself that can ultimately help you find a college that's a good fit. Here are the questions you should answer before sending in your decision letter.
1. How much contact do I want with my professors?
No matter how small or large your college is, you probably won't get the same level of attention that you received from your teachers and administrators in high school, but overall you're more likely to get individualized attention at a smaller institution. If having one-on-one meetings with your professors is something that you need to keep you on track, you may want to avoid colleges with primarily large class sizes. If you prefer independent study, you might thrive in an environment where you can sit in on a lecture and go home to do your work.
2. What living options am I comfortable with?
If you're planning on living at your university, this is particularly important. Dorming shouldn't be as big a factor in your college decision as the academics, but if you're not comfortable in your living arrangement, it will affect the rest of your experience. Any new living situation takes adjustment, but if the thought of sharing a communal bathroom makes you particularly uncomfortable, then you might want to choose a school with other options.
3. How often do I want to go home?
Some people are perfectly fine with going home for Christmas and the summer (if that) while other people are happier knowing that they can go home at any point to do laundry or have a home-cooked meal. While distance away from home is a factor, also consider how easy it will be to actually get home if you want to. Is there reliable public transportation, or will you need a car to get back and forth? You might only be three hours away driving-wise, but if public transit is a hassle it will keep you on campus.
4. Am I okay with changing my major changing my college experience?
Most, if not all colleges allow you to change the major you decided on in your application - after all, the decisions we make at age 18 don't always stick. However, if you attend a school known for a specific program, or attend a school where they only offer a limited amount of majors, you might feel stuck studying something that you're no longer interested in - or decide to transfer colleges entirely. Are you willing to take the risk in order to attend the school, or would you prefer a college where you can switch majors freely?
5. How important is studying abroad or internship programs to me?
Most schools have study abroad programs and many have programs where you can take a semester off of classes to intern in your field. If this is something you know you want to do, make sure that it's something that your school (and also your course of study within the school) allows for.
6. Am I okay with paying off significant loans?
If you know certain schools are only affordable after taking on heavy loans, you might want to consider whether it's truly worth it. Paying off loans might seem far away, but the bills will catch up to you down the line. Is a pricier college worth the extra expense for you?
7. Can I see myself at this school?
It can be easy to be won over by amazing facilities and prestigious names, but I think the easiest way to see if you could fit in at a school is by visiting and reading the vibe from the students. It's not a perfect science, but if you could picture yourself in the shoes of one of the students on campus pretty easily, then it might be a school worth exploring. If not? There are plenty of other colleges out there where you could - promise.