While you don’t have to pick your lifelong career-pursuit at the age of 17, when deciding where to attend college, it helps to know what you’re interested in. The goal is to pick a college that supports that interest and will give you the best opportunities therein. But choosing the right place is a bit more complex than it might seem. In this post, we will highlight the ways in which you can hone in the right school for your interests.
Let’s say you’ve got the acting bug. A lot of kids who are interested in acting seek to go to Yale for its prestigious drama program. The thing is, Yale has an exceptional MFA program and you can go there one day, but only after you’ve completed four years of undergrad. You need to look at each school through a critical lens. The first thing you should do is make a list of all the schools you think fit your interests. Scrutinize them. Why do you think you like them? It’s possible that the traits you like best are actually crafted or enhanced by their marketing teams. After all, universities are businesses, too, and they want to attract bright students to their programs.
Define Your Interests
Perhaps there are some of you who are still developing interests. We ask our students to define them. Most kids are like “huh? I don’t have any interests.” So, once we’re done with that part, we like to ask some questions: What type of person do you like hanging out with? What do you like to do in your free time? If you had 24 hours in one day you could fill with anything, what would it be? A lot of kids tell us they like hanging out with friends. That actually does count as an interest. It means you’re social and you should go to a school where extroverts tend to thrive.
It’s really good to know about your own social interests. We had a kid who was extremely social. She had tons of friends in her class and on the weekends, always hosted get-togethers with large groups of kids. When we met her, she was looking at schools like Princeton. The thing is, Princeton probably wasn’t the right fit for her. So, we advised her to look at bigger schools, like Michigan.
Discover the Personality
When you go on your college tours, your objective should be to get to the bottom of what the school’s personality is like. You’re probably not going to get that from the tour guide, the admissions personnel, or anyone else who has a vested interest in marketing the school. It can feel awkward at first, but you have to ask current students what the schools are really like. Ask them where they go to eat on Sunday mornings, what the political climate is like on campus, which extracurriculars are the biggest, and what people do for fun. If you’re interested in Greek life, you should ask someone in a frat or sorority what a typical Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are like. It’s a little bit like going on a first date. You already kind of know the person from class and you think they’re cute, but you need to ask questions and find out more if you’re going to go on a second date. Get a sense of the school’s personality. If you are really into community service, you might not want to go to a school with a lot of fraternities and a wealthy student body, but you may never know if you don’t ask.
Need help refining your list of interests? Reach out to us here. We are great at helping kids determine the right college list for them.