Students’ guide to applying and picking the perfect college

Hope Leinen`20, Contributing to Journalism Writer

There is one last big decision to make before high school comes to an end. You’ve put in years of work, dealt with difficult teachers and have taken PSAT’s, SAT’s and ACT’s that were said to impact your future after high school. Now it is time to make the biggest decision of your high school career.

It is time to apply for college.

Once you hit your junior and senior year of high school, adults always ask what college you’re going to. They just assume everyone wants to go.  

In truth, there are a lot of benefits to whatever path you choose. You could go to college, defer for a year or not go at all; it is all up to you.

Many people are at a loss of what to do, what questions to ask and how to make a final decision. Anyone can play spin the wheel with the colleges they get into, but how do you know what schools to apply to in the first place, and how do you stand out from the thousands of applicants? In the United States alone there are 5,300 colleges and universities.

The following are the best questions to ask yourself, tips to help you apply, and how to pick the perfect college or university:

1) The earlier you start, the better:

It is never too early to start. Even if it is freshman year, you can start researching colleges that are well known and taking the virtual tours online. You don’t necessarily have to map out your whole future at this point; this is just to start to get an idea of what you like. Senior Ian Gesler said, “I wished I started earlier because I started even later than most people, so I suggest that people start as early as possible.”

In addition to getting a look at virtual tours online, you should look at the average SAT, GPA and ACT scores for that school so you get an idea of what kind of scores you should work towards.

2) Build your resume throughout high school:

It is very important to be active in your community throughout high school. Colleges look for students who are willing to socialize, and they look for someone who has dimensions (someone who is involved in a lot of different things). Altogether, they are looking for well rounded kids who will fit in with that school’s community.

Some ways you can start building your resume are to join clubs and participate in community service projects. Being active in your community and school will be your key to a solid application. It is also important to get involved in things in which you are interested and will noticeably set you apart from others.

For students living in South Lyon, there are an expansive amounts of resources for students to utilize to build their resume. There are opportunities to volunteer through your high school’s Key Club, and you can utilize a website called to help find local volunteer opportunities.

3) Make a list of factors that matter to you:

This is definitely one of the most important steps to take when trying to pick a college that’ll fit you. Psychology teacher Ms. Alicia Colley said that she picked the University of Michigan because she really wanted a big school that was integrated into the community. In addition to this, she really liked the reputation that the U of M held. Here are some questions to get you started on making your list:

-Do you want something rural or urban?

-Do you care about proximity to home?

-Do they have your majors? Or Do they have a variety of majors if you don’t know what you want to go into?

-Do you want a big or small campus?

-What kind of college experience do you want to have?

4) Make sure to visit a lot of schools:

Visiting schools can be beneficial in different ways depending on where you are in the process of picking a college. If you are just starting out and are trying to decide what you like, then you should visit schools near you with varying sizes. This will help you determine what kind of campus you like.

If you are visiting schools that you have applied to or have gotten in to, then it is important to really spend some quality time on campus. English teacher Mrs. Emily Kane suggested, “Visit, but not just in an orientation atmosphere, actually experience what it’s like. Spend quality time and spend the night if you can.” It is really important to spend time and see if it could be a possible home for you because if you don’t give it a chance, you could miss out on the perfect school. Kane also said, “I probably would have gone to Clemson if I had spent authentic time on campus. State ended up being the safer choice because I had grown up around there and had visited multiple times.”

5) Picking a school:

Ultimately, it is up to you to pick the best school for you. However, by building a pro and con list, the choice may become clearer. Colley said that she went over students’ pros and cons list with them, and the majority of them were able to come to a decision.

Whatever path you take, know that nothing is definite, and you can always transfer or defer for a year to figure things out.

Good luck!
Photo courtesy of FastWeb

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