Fairview High School > Step 1: Choosing a College - START HERE

Fairview High School

Step 1: Choosing a College - START HERE

How to Choose A College That’s Right for YOU!

In thinking about the questions below, you are starting to figure out what you want your college experience to be. The more you are able to know yourself - your strengths, your weaknesses, your interests, your hobbies and your goals - the better off you will be in finding a good fit for college. There is not just one college that is perfect for you - there are many colleges that can offer exactly what you want. The trick is to think about what you want out of the college experience and then look for schools that fit your needs and goals. The more time you can spend answering these questions and talking with others who know you (family, teachers, and friends), the more likely you will be to select colleges that fit you well for a happy, motivating and meaningful experience. The most important factor in choosing a college is FIT.

Print out the Choosing a College - Start Here worksheet.
On your worksheet, check all the items that are important to you. Also add notes and comments.


Why do you want to go to college?
What do you want to get out of college?
  • I see college as a journey of self-discovery to grow, learn, change, hear and understand differing opinions, and gain a broader perspective on the world.
  • I see college as a chance to discover some particular passions and pursue them.
  • I see college as a time to develop important skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and goal setting for life, career, and independence.
  • I see college as a time for preparing for a specific career/job.
  • I see college as a time for a liberal arts education that may prepare me for a variety of career choices.

Majors / Academic Programs

What do you think you might want to study in college?
What are some possible college majors?
  • I'm not sure...
    No one is asking you to choose an exact major, in fact, most students change their minds two to three times before they settle on a major. However, you probably know some subject areas and majors that you definitely want your college to have so that when you do decide on a major, you'll most likely have that option. So take a moment to list a few areas that are of interest to you or simply list a few of your favorite classes in high school. Would you like to know what majors are available in college? Do the exercise below.
    Find majors that interest you.
    Try Finding Majors - A Quick Exercise.
  • I'm pretty sure I know...
    List a few possible majors or areas of study that you would like your college to offer.
What academic programs and opportunities do you want the college to have?
  • 2 year vs. 4 year program
  • Honors programs
  • Research opportunities for undergraduates
  • Internships
  • Co-op programs
  • Study abroad programs
  • Core curriculum
  • Create your own major/interdisciplinary studies
  • Credit awarded for IB and AP scores and the ability to graduate with a degree in less than four years.
  • A program that allows dual degrees or bachelor's and master's degree in four years.
Academic environment and learning needs - What do you need to be a successful learner?
  • Small classes, easier access to professors, more discussion oriented, classes taught by professors rather than TAs
  • Large lecture hall classes are acceptable
  • Academic theme dorms with smaller classes at large universities.
  • Tutoring and study skills support services
  • Resources for students with learning disabilities (IEP, ILP, 504)


How selective should the school be regarding admissions?
  • Name or prestige of the school is important.
  • I am aware that the most selective colleges admit less than 10% of applicants. See Highly Selective Colleges - I believe that I can be competitive.
  • I'm less concerned about the name of the school as long as it has the programs that are best for me.
  • I'm aware that I need to Balance My List with "Reach", "Target" and "Safety" colleges.
What is the cost (tuition, room and board, books and fees, transportation)? How will you pay for it?

Range of college costs: $3,000/year for a community college to >$70,000/year for some private colleges.
Questions to discuss at home, see Talk to Your Family:
  • I know how much my family can contribute each year.
  • I am willing to spend the extra time looking for and applying to outside scholarships.
  • I am willing to work during the school year and the summer to help pay for my education.
  • Taking on debt is a very serious decision. Are you or is your family willing to take on loans for college?
  • Will you apply for financial aid?
  • I understand that need-based and merit scholarships from a college rarely pay all college costs.

Location / Campus Environment

What is important to you?
  • Area of the country
  • Climate
  • Urban, suburban, or rural
  • Close to home
  • Travel: nearness to major airports, travel time, cost
  • Campus architecture and beauty
  • Campus safety
  • Access to shops, movies, event centers, public transit, etc.
  • Ability to do the things you love in this location (mountain bike, ski, run, visit museums, major concerts and theater)


Does size/enrollment matter in your college choice?

Small school - <3,000 students
Medium school - 3,000-10,000 students
Large school - >10,000 students
  • I want a small college that has a close community, most students live on campus all four years, generally classes are smaller and professors are more accessible.
  • I want a medium college with more choices but still a distinct community.
  • I'm looking for a larger college with more choices; majors, clubs, activities, sports, diversity and possibly larger classes.

Campus Life

Interests and Activities - What else is important to you about your college choice and life on campus?
  • Campus housing - theme dorms, honors dorms, housing guaranteed for four years
  • Fraternities/sororities
  • Sports - I want to play (club, intramural, Division I, II, III)
  • Sports - I want to attend popular sporting events
  • Religious interests/organizations
  • Clubs that interest me
  • Performing arts open to all to participate
  • Special dietary requirements
  • Single gender
  • Strong alumni network
  • Volunteer opportunities and community involvement
  • Study abroad and international experiences
  • I want a college with________________________________
Personality and Social Environment - Are these my people? Will I fit in? Are these the students and professors I want to interact with?
  • I want a strong sense of community; student involvement, a feeling of belonging.
  • I want a college with a strong campus spirit.
  • I'm looking for an atmosphere of academic rigor.
  • I'm looking for colleges with less drugs and alcohol.
  • I want a college with major athletic events.
  • I'm looking for a college that values integrity, character, and the importance of giving back.
  • I'm looking for students that enjoy philosophical discussions and are lovers of ideas.