Choosing The Right College

December 13, 2014 (Original post here)

It’s almost graduation season and that means closing one chapter and starting a new one <— like that cheesy old line? As much as I would love to talk about cliche high school graduation speeches and how senior year is going to be the best year ever, I think that there is something more important to discuss. In reality, you should start looking at your options and doing research during your junior year in high school. During your senior year, that’s when you start to apply to your schools. Once you apply and start receiving your acceptance letters (hopefully) it can become difficult to figure out which college you want to go to. 

There are many things to consider when figuring out which college you want to go to.

  • Should you go out of state?
  • Do you want to go to a community college?
  • Is there a lot of financial assistance?
  • Do you want to stay in-state?
  • Are you going to dorm?
  • Are you going to your dad’s/mom’s alma mater?
  • Will you go to the same school as your sibling?
  • How about your favorite college team? Will you go to that school?

The list can go on and on and it can become more and more difficult to decide which college to go to. To be honest I didn’t have that difficult of decision to make because I had 2 options. I either stay at home and go to my college there or I leave and go to the mainland, if you didn’t know I’m originally from Hawaii. I really had to ask one of my teacher’s what I should do. My dad had already moved to Las Vegas to establish residency because he was sure I was going to go to a mainland school, so I looked to my teacher as a father-figure at the time. I told my teacher about my fears and concerns, and he said, “You should get the hell off of this island.” See, in Hawaii, we really have only one opportunity to leave the island and live on the mainland and that’s after we graduate high school. If we don’t leave, we end up staying in Hawaii for the rest of our lives. I’ve been here for almost 5 years, and I never regret my decision.

From my experience, I’ve learned that you should never feel like you need to change who you are in order to be accepted into the school. I suggest you walk the campus and do some research. I picked Las Vegas because I knew that a lot of Hawaii people move here and a lot of Hawaii people visit here; if you didn’t know Las Vegas is considered the 9th island. I had a feeling that I would feel comfortable here and I knew that I would be able to see some of my friends when they came up to bowl. They had a great business college and the campus looked pretty decent.

You should look for a college that you can really picture yourself going to. Visit the school’s website and see what their known for. Maybe they have a great science program there or a great theater program. If they have a virtual tour that you cant take online, I highly suggest going through it or at least look at the map and try to get a feel for the campus. Like I’ve mentioned in some of my other posts, I love to bowl competitively and I did consider going to a lot of east coast school like Vanderbilt, Wichita, Nebraska, Fairleigh Dickinson, and UMES. However, the more I though about it, the more I realized I probably wouldn’t have felt comfortable attending those schools. The more I researched the schools, the more I realized that those school weren’t for me.

I made a set of criteria to help me narrow my choices down to applying to 3 schools. In reality I would say you should apply to at least 4-5 schools to at least give yourself more options. Once I got my acceptance letters, I already had an idea of where I wanted to attend, however I was still extremely hesitant to actually tell the school that I would be attending in the Fall. What pushed me over the edge to attend was the fact that I realized that I was giving myself the best opportunity. On the mainland there are so many more opportunities for jobs/careers and if I really wanted to, I could always go back home.

You need to remember that you need to give yourself the best opportunity out there. You shouldn’t live with “what-ifs.” Life is about taking chances and opening doors for yourself. Find a school that will inspire you to work hard and one that offers classes that you’re interested in. Another thing to remember is that if you’re thinking about going out of state remember that you can always go back home if things don’t work out.

Here are some other tips:

  • Start looking at colleges early – preferably ending of sophomore year and all throughout your junior year (high school)
  • Do some research on tuition and come up with a plan with your parents
    • You need to figure out:
      • How will you pay for tuition?
      • Will you take out loans?
      • How much will on-campus housing cost?
      • What about food budget?
      • How will you pay for books?
  • Research possible scholarship opportunities. You can get scholarships for basically anything nowadays, for example, I got one just because I was Asian, go figure.
  • PSAT Courses: You should consider taking them during the summer of either your sophomore or junior year. It’s a great way to figure out how to maneuver the SATs and figure out where your weak areas are and work on them.
  • SATs: Don’t forget to sign up for your SATs or ACTs as soon as you can. The sooner the better, because if you need to retake it you’ll be able to do so before application deadlines.
  • Be aware of the deadlines. Each college has their own deadlines for when applications are due. Make sure you keep those in mind and submit your application before then. I think at the very latest, you should submit your application 2 weeks before the actual deadlines just in case there’s any mail/delivery complications.
  • Figure out your who you want your references to be. You should look for teachers, coaches, mentors, etc. who have been able to watch you develop and grow.
  • Don’t be afraid to contact the school: Sign up to receive more info on the school or even request an information packet from the school so you can see what the school is known for and the different programs they offer.

I hope this helps you if you’re in the dilemma of picking a college. It’s an exciting time in your life and you should enjoy the process. I also encourage you to involve your parents or close family members in on the process.

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