Location, atmosphere and fit figure in choice


When thinking about college and making future decisions, it is very easy for me to get overwhelmed. When I first began my college search, sitting down with numerous books, college mailings, and a computer, I may or may not have banged my head against the table once or twice.

In my junior year, I made a list of all the qualities important to me in a college and then ranked them. I’ve been editing the list as I discover more about myself and what I’m looking for in post-secondary education. That list has been instrumental in narrowing down which schools I am interested in, and the three most important factors for me, shockingly, have not changed since I first made the list. Location, atmosphere, and whether or not I can see myself at a school are my top three priorities, and have allowed me to narrow my choices before worrying about college tours or application fees.

Growing more flexible on location
I have wanted to live in a big city for as long as I can remember, and when I began narrowing down college choices, I was adamant that location be taken into consideration.

As an avid reader and an aspiring writer and book editor, I always pictured myself living in a big city, but as application deadlines draw nearer, I have widened my scope to any “reasonably sized” city, because I found the offerings of two or three cities to be fairly slim. This ability to work within the constraints I set for myself taught me a lot about being flexible and adjusting, qualities I believe will help me in the future.

Another prerequisite in my college decision is the atmosphere of the college, that intangible something I felt upon stepping onto a campus for the first time. My mom tells the story of a school we toured in Chicago. We had finished parking and were going to check in when I told her that I was definitely not applying to the school. She was understanding, but when she asked me what made me so sure, I had no definite answer for her beyond saying that the school didn’t feel “right.”

Visualizing myself on campus, in class

The most important factor for me in choosing a school is whether or not I can picture myself there. If I can’t see myself sleeping in the dorms and studying in the library, eating in the dining hall or meeting with a study group in the courtyard, I’m not going to apply. Every school that I have toured has been great, but not all of them have been great for me.

In the early days of my college search, I was fixated on the idea of finding the “right” school, that one school that fit all of my criteria and was exactly what I wanted. I was convinced that unless I went to this “dream school,” I would not be in the right place and I would not enjoy my college experience.

I have since learned that the process of finding a “perfect” school is impossible in and of itself, but I believe there are many “great” schools for everyone. Discovering this has taken many college tours and even more research sessions, but this knowledge has made the process less daunting. I now know that whatever school I choose based on these criteria will be “right” for me, and I look forward to making the decision.

About the Author

Rachel Schaub

Rachel Schaub

Loyola High School, Mankato, Minn.
Hometown: North Mankato, Minn.


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