To say that I was stubborn when I was applying for colleges is an understatement. I was persistent that I was only visiting and applying to two universities knowing that I was going to get into at least one of them. I had my had my heart set on attending a University of Missouri school, whether it was Columbia or Kansas City. I had made lists of organizations I wanted to get involved in at either of the two schools and had even researched potential dorms to live in at both schools but didn’t bother to look at any of these things for other schools. Did I say I was stubborn?
While I do attend the University of Missouri-Columbia and still love the branch campus in Kansas City, I wish that I had been more open minded to other universities instead of just touring them so that my parents would stop pestering me to branch out a little. Today I’m hoping to share with you what to keep in mind when you are choosing a college and making the very scary decision of where you would like to complete your under-graduate (and even maybe your masters!) degree.
- Distance from home.
As a senior in high school I was persistent that I wanted to be far enough away from home that it would take about a day or so to get home. While thankfully I came to my senses that it wasn’t a good idea, I knew that the closest I wanted to be to home was an hour and that I didn’t want to be out of the state of Missouri. The furthest away I looked was about seven hours and I found a happy medium in Columbia which is about three hours from my house. It’s far enough away from home that I feel independent, but close enough to home that if something where to come up I could be home.
- Size of the city where your university is located.
One of the reasons I scratched several potential schools off of my list was because the towns were so small. I grew up in a town with around 80,000 people and that doesn’t have the broadest range of stores, restaurants, and places to hang out. I knew I wanted to find a nicer city with lots of people, stuff always going on, and more stores. I love Columbia for the beautiful down town within walking distance from campus, the gorgeous nature trails, and wide range of restaurants and stores whether locally owned or chains.
- Climate of where you are moving to.
My university is known for its journalism school and people from around the country come just to be a part of it. It has always been interested me to watch people who have never truly seen snow until they make it to mid-Missouri for college. They seem to either love it or hate it once they’ve experienced it, but will also sometimes admit that thinking about the climate of where they were moving to had never crossed their minds. If you are looking into a school, especially if they are out of state, do research on what the climate can change to during the year. This way, you won’t be trying to order a winter coat after the first snow of the year.
College is horribly expensive, but that shouldn’t prevent you from pursuing your dream schools. Apply for scholarships both through the universities you are applying to and outside sources, look into grants, and see about any students loans that you could take out. While I realize that student loans are frowned upon, if you have to take them out try your hardest to stick to the ones that are offered to you by your university. For example, if you are offered $7,000 as a loan, you don’t have to take the full amount if you don’t need all of it. Also, there isn’t as much interest on them compared to if you took them out from a source outside of your university (typically).
Campus size was huge to me and I never realized how much of an influence it could have on your college experience until I talked to a friend of mine that goes to a much smaller university. She made the comment that the most people she had ever had in a lecture was 100, that every professor knows her by name, she knows everyone in her class, and the walk to class is five minutes max. It’s a huge difference from my school where I’ve had several 500 person lecture classes, have to make the effort to meet my professors so that they know my name, I barely know the people within my major, and it can take me up to fifteen minutes to walk to class. When you are looking at colleges, the size of the campus plays a major role. While yes, the 500 person lecture classes scared me at first, I can’t imagine going to a smaller school that doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of my school and my friend can’t imagine going to a school that even offers lectures for more than 100 people.
There are several things that I wish I had been a little more aware of when I was touring colleges. One of those things was the student body as a whole. My campus offers a very wide range of on-campus housing options, has a ton of school spirit, and the students are all very involved. Essentially, it’s almost as if I am always immersed in the school environment. While I love that aspect, for many that idea makes them cringe. Here are some things to look at within the student body of potential universities.
- Commuter verses on-campus housing.
If you choose a university that offers on-campus housing, it basically immerses you in the school environment at all times. The dining halls are just around the corner, you can wake up twenty minutes before class and still be on time, and there are always people on campus and something happening. Commuter colleges don’t have any dorms (if they do it’s typically 1-3 at most) but typically has several apartment complexes near-by, students only typically come onto campus for class, work, and tutoring and go on their way, and typically there are less students on campus at any given time.
- School spirit.
I didn’t understand exactly how much spirit my university had until an older sister of one of the girls in my dorm said that she couldn’t get over how much black and gold you saw around campus. She said that at her school you typically spotted a t-shirt for the school here and there, but that many students wore shirts supporting other universities. I love that my school bleeds black and gold and that on any given day whether it’s a game day or not you spot a sea of school spirit. For many people seeing that much school spirit is a bit too much.
My university offers over 700 clubs for you to join not including our Greek life and most students are involved in a handle of them. I personally love the hustle and bustle of students and just how involved we are within our university. On the other hand some students want to be able to take a step back and not be so involved within their university.
A huge thing to consider when choosing a university is the major offerings. If you already have an idea in your head of what you want to major in, check to see if the universities you are looking at offer those particular majors and if they offer any majors you might consider incase later on you decide that the major you chose just isn’t for you. For me personally, I was set on broadcast journalism, communications, public relations, or marketing. While I ended up going with marketing, both schools that I was seriously looking at offered the majors that I was looking into.
A big thing to consider when you are looking at colleges is whether you want to live at home, on-campus, or off campus. When looking at on-campus housing take into consideration the cost of living there, whether you want community or suite style, how many roommates you are okay with having, the location of the dorm on-campus, and if the dorm is open for you to stay there over breaks should you not be able to go home. When looking at off-campus housing consider the distance from campus, if the apartment offers shuttles to and from campus, if the apartment complex is catered towards college students or is a regular complex, and how much the monthly rent is.
One of the main reasons that I chose my university was because of the size of Greek life. While after a year of being an active member of a sorority I decided it simply wasn’t for me and decided to drop, I have nothing against sororities and am still happy that Greek life played such an important role in where I chose to go to school. If you are interested in joining Greek life, look into how many chapters your school has, how much involvement the chapters have on campus, and the potential price. If you choose a school with a smaller Greek life, things typically aren’t as extreme as compared to a school that has Greek life like Mizzou where pomping is how you spend the majority of your fall semester to prepare for homecoming.
If you are in high school, what are you looking for in a college? Do you think any of these tips will help you? If you are already in college or have graduated from college, are there any points that you would add to this list? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below!