March 27, 2013
By Angela Kraus
Deciding what college to attend can be overwhelming. But you can reduce the stress if you can figure out what you want and don't want in a college before you looking at specific schools. Consider the factors listed below to determine what's important to you so you can evaluate the tradeoffs and eliminate schools before you get too far into the process.
Do you like the cultural opportunities offered on an urban campus or the open spaces of a rural environment? Maybe you want to experience both by attending a suburban campus. Location can really impact your mental state and should be considered carefully.
Do you want a lot of services of a large campus or the personal touch of a smaller campus? Do you want to know students and teachers by name as you walk across campus or would that make you claustrophobic? Do you prefer more diversity in curriculum and facilities, even if you'll be one among many students in a lecture hall? Larger campus can offer more amenities, but they also can be more impersonal.
- Distance from Home
Do you want the option of coming home on the spur-of-the-moment or giving your friends from home and family an easy commute to see you play? If so, choose a college close to home. On the other hand, attending a college far from home will allow you to live in a totally different area of the country with its own culture, climate, and geography.
Figure out how much you and your family can afford, how much you're willing to borrow, and then plan accordingly. This may immediately eliminate some schools from your list. Make sure you have a back-up plan in case the financial aid package is less than you expect from the school of your choice.
- Academic Reputation
Does the school's academic reputation matter to you? Can you get into the school and will you succeed academically? Most of the education you receive depends on the effort you put in, wherever you go, but some schools obviously carry a bigger name. Bear that in mind that the most elite academic institutions will place greater emphasis on academics than water polo.
- Institutional Type
Does it matter if the school is a private institution or a state school? Private schools tend to cost more but carry smaller teacher-to-student ratios. Also, consider the impact of the economy on the schools' budgets. State schools may have to keep raising tuition and reducing services and classes while private schools may have endowments to help them through tough economic times.
- Competitive Level
Do you want to play at a Top-20 varsity program with a chance to make the National Team, or are you at the other end of the spectrum, simply looking to have fun and stay in shape? Collegiate club teams offer competitive opportunities from recreational to competitive levels, complete with travel, while varsity teams provide chances to play at the competitive through elite levels.
What type of coach can you survive and thrive under as an athlete? Do you need a teacher? Can you tolerate a screamer? Failing to consider this in advance can cause problems once on the team.
- Playing Time
Be honest when you evaluate your ability; it's an important step in determining where you can contribute. In addition, decide if you're willing to redshirt or ride the bench for a while, or if you want to contribute as a starter immediately. While it may be flattering to receive an offer from a school with a good record of making it to the NCAA Championship or semi-final games, consider other players in your class who've been recruited into (or are already attending) that school, if and when you'd play, or if you'd only spend endless hours working hard in practice. Also consider if you'd rather attend a different school with a solid program and a less-illustrious incoming class and bench where you'd have a better chance of playing in matches. Looking at the retention or attrition rate among players on the team you're considering will help you with this aspect of the decision-making process. All of these factors will impact the level of play you eventually seek and the college you ultimately decide to attend.
Obviously some factors will carry greater weight than others, but considering all these items will help you narrow your choices. As you examine these factors, think carefully about yourself and if you want to try something different than what you've experienced.
Your life situation will never be as flexible as it is during college. After you graduate, you'll begin tracking in a career, you may get married, and eventually you may raise a family. All the latter factors tend to narrow your options as you go through life. But your college years are when you're least entangled by other forces, so don't be afraid to take advantage of this time to try something new. Considering the advantages and disadvantages of the factors outlined in this article will help you give weight to each factor and ultimately give you a better picture of the type of school you want to attend.
Questions? Write to Angela Kraus at email@example.com. Angela is an experienced, certified counselor providing comprehensive college counseling services to help students prepare for and ensure eligibility for graduation from high school and admission to college. A special focus of her practice is advising high school athletes as they engage in the college athletic recruiting process, with an emphasis on water polo players.
This article was orginally printed in the Winter 2012 issue of SkipShot Magazine.
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