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How to Properly Research Colleges

If you're preparing to start your college search, it may be overwhelming to choose the best ones for you. What if you only want to attend smaller colleges? Or want to pursue a music or engineering degree? Maybe you have friends attending FAMU, but you don't know if you truly want to leave the state you live in. Luckily, there are hundreds of fantastic schools, both HBCU and PWI, that would love to have you. No matter your GPA, SATs, interests, or extracurriculars, there IS a college for you! To help make your search more streamlined, here is a list of helpful tips on how to properly research colleges.

Search by Academics First

It's very easy to get excited about a school's athletic programs or social life, but try to keep the reason for college in sight during your search—the degree. This piece of paper will help guide your future career, so researching schools by academics is a great initial step. If you have a potential major in mind, is it offered at the schools you're interested in? If you aren't set on a major, do they offer a general education track to help you find one? What is the average class ratio students to teacher? How are courses typically structured? Do they offer internship or study abroad opportunities? These are some foundational questions to ask when conducting your search.

Social Landscape

The social aspect of colleges is a huge part of making your decisions for applications, since feeling like you belong is crucial. There's nothing worse than feeling like you can't quite connect with the student body. To prevent this from happening, here are some questions to keep in mind: How diverse is the school (both in professors and students)? What is the total number of students? What's the male to female ratio? How does housing work after freshman year? Are there meal plan options available, and if so, how do they work? What types of extracurricular activities are offered, like clubs, fitness classes, Greek life, intramural sports, and campus hosted events? Does service play a role in campus life? Asking questions like these can really help guide your search.

Other Factors to Consider

Of the dozens of things to think about before deciding to apply to a college, cost is definitely a top consideration. Luckily, many HBCUs offer some form of scholarship to accepted students. Location is another fairly large factor as well, especially if being far from home doesn't sound appealing. If this is the case, you can limit your search to schools within a specific radius to home. Or, maybe you welcome the idea of moving states away for school. It's important to take time to think about what is truly important to you and not necessarily what your best friends are thinking about doing. You want to be able to thrive independently at school, so you may find that you have different needs than them.

Use Available Resources

There are countless resources available to you to help provide the information you need to create your list of schools. One of the best may be in your high school with a guidance counselor. This may not seem fruitful; however, these people can offer great advice and direction! Some high schools even offer funds to pay for application fees and campus visits. Make sure you exhaust these options before you graduate! Online, there are programs like College Navigator and Cappex that will populate lists of options based on your chosen preferences. You may have seen the ranked lists on U.S. News or Forbes, but don't let these dictate your search. A low ranked school may be able to offer you to perfect experience, while a highly ranked one may not be what you imagined.

As you compile the schools you want to apply to, ask to receive information from them. Many schools will gladly send you a few documents regarding the campus, academics, campus life, and more. If you have the means, you should also try to visit a few colleges to truly see what they're like. Using these tips will hopefully guide you along the path to the perfect college. Remember to keep your priorities at the forefront of your search and never sell yourself short!


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