With more than 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States and even more overseas, it can be overwhelming to think about narrowing down a list of ten to fifteen schools to which you want to apply. As I approached the process, I often found myself thinking, “If I haven't been to college yet, how am I supposed to know what type of school I would like?” Perhaps, you've thought this too.
I wish I could wave my wand and give you some magic formula, but there's no easy answer to this question. However, researching all of the options that are available to you is a great place to start. If you're looking for some research inspiration, here are a few ideas you may want to explore.
The size of your institution will have a significant impact on your experience. Larger schools may have more opportunities for you to do research, but many of your classes may be huge lectures. On the other hand, smaller schools may give you more support and personalized attention but may not offer the huge football games or school spirit experiences. In either case, there are pros and cons to every size institution, and you will want to decide which experiences are the most important to you.
Similar to size, location can have a significant impact on your experiences. At some schools, it may not be easy to discern where campus ends and the city starts. Others may feel like a bubble, completely separate from the rest of the world. City schools may allow you to take advantage of museums and other resources, while suburban and rural schools may make you feel completely immersed in a community of your peers.
3. Private or Public
Across the board, your experiences at private schools or public schools can vary. However, there is one difference between the two that is reasonably consistent: price. Given that public schools receive state funding, they will generally be a less expensive option. However, as a result, more students are often interested in them, so they tend to be larger schools. You may be able to get more personalized attention at a private college or university.
4. HBCU or All Women's Status
A number of schools cater to students with specific shared identifiers, the most prominent being all-women’s colleges or historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Going to these schools will give you a large affinity group of similar students that may enhance your academic and social experiences. There are relatively few of these schools around the country, but they could be a great option for you if you seek them out.
5. Military Affiliation
Going to a military institution is an excellent option for many students, although your experience will be drastically different from what many students typically envision when they think of college. In typical military fashion, these schools will be more regimented than many other schools. One significant benefit of these schools is that they are free — if you complete a few years of military service upon graduation.