It’s that time, time to start figuring out where the next chapter of your life is going to take place. A decision that is not to be taken lightly, a decision that is up to you; not your parents, not your friends, not your siblings, you. This is going to be the next chapter of your life, so you need to find the right place for you!
How do you find the “right fit"? You have probably heard this term before but have yet to figure out what exactly it means. Here are a few tips and tools on finding the “right fit” in the college search process:
- If you are thinking of applying or have already applied to colleges or universities, visit all of the campuses you are considering. You wouldn’t buy a new car without test driving or buy a house without checking it out, so why would you pick a college campus that will become part of the next 4 years of your life without officially visiting? Setting foot on campus will give you a feeling, whether good vibes or bad, and those feelings will help you start determining the “right fit.” Can you see yourself on the campus? Can you picture yourself on the quad hanging out with friends? Can you see yourself in the library studying and working on a paper? You will feel it or you won’t when you visit. This is your chance to see if a picture is really worth a thousand words!
- Sign up for an official visit when visiting campuses and sign up early. It is tempting to walk onto a campus and walk around on your own, which is a great idea to get a general feeling, but make sure to sign up for an official visit. Why? During an official campus visit you will get to see things you may not see walking around on your own, your tour guide or admission counselor may prompt questions you didn’t even think to ask and you will learn things you never even considered. Whether it is a general tour of campus, a day long visit program or an open house, you will learn something new. Keep in mind that signing up early has its benefits. Many visits fill-up so the sooner you sign up the better. At CU Boulder we want to welcome you to campus, but if a visit is full we don’t want to impact your visit experience or that of another guests. The early bird gets the worm, right?
- Ask questions, the same questions of each place you visit and take pictures. Getting honest, candid answers is a big piece of finding the “right fit.” Come prepared with a list of questions and use the same questions for each college visit. Keep a list to compare and contrast. Question ideas: What is there to do off campus and in the surrounding area? What kind of research opportunities are there for undergraduate students? Can I have a car on campus? What is the average class size? What is the best way to get to know my professors? In addition, use your phone. Take pictures of what a residence hall room looks like, what the dining hall looks like, what a classroom looks like, etc. to remind yourself once you get home. After 3 or 4 visits, everything will look similar and you will forget what you saw and where it was that you saw it!
- Explore your area of academic interest, make sure it is an option at the schools you are considering and visit with that department while on campus. A campus may look A-MAZ-ING online, but if they don’t have your program of study, it won’t be quite as amazing in person. If you don’t see the major you are interested in, ask your college admission counselor if it exists. A great example at CU Boulder – we have had students ask us about kinesiology. We have kinesiology, but call it Integrative Physiology. Another great example – many students scan our major lists, don’t see biology and assume we don’t have it. We do! We have multiple types of biology programs: Molecular, Cellular and Development Biology and Evolutionary and Ecology Biology. Ask before you assume. If you find the program you are interested in, contact that academic department directly to see if you can meet with someone either before or after your official campus visit. This is your chance to kill two birds with one stone while on campus so take full advantage of it.
- Take time either before or after your official visit to walk around and visit the “living room” of campus. What is the “living room” of a college campus? This is the place, or places, where students hang out between classes or while studying – the hub of campus. It varies from campus to campus so ask your tour guide or stop random students on campus to ask where most students hang out between classes. It could be the student union, the student center, the library, the quad or an open space on campus. Go check it out and see what the vibe is like when you are there. Could you see yourself there studying or hanging out with friends? Is so, you might be closer to finding the “right fit.”
No matter where you go or what you decide, make sure it is right for you. You will know the “right fit” when you start comparing your perfect place to other places. If you have visited 6 places and you use X University to compare it to every other place you have visited, recognize it and know that you are leaning toward that place because it feels right to you. Trust your gut and follow your intuition. Again, make sure it is what you want, not anyone else, because at the end of the day you will be the one sleeping, eating, breathing, socializing and studying in those spaces. If the spaces don’t fit you, you won’t fit them!
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