It's an exciting time when college decisions start rolling in! But how do you decide?? You've been told to consider the size of the campus, its proximity to a large city, etc. etc. But we've got 5 factors that SHOULD be on your radar before you commit to your home away from home for the next 4 or more years!
How often do you plan to visit family?
Do you see yourself visiting your hometown every other weekend, or just stopping by for birthdays and holidays? Check if you’re allowed to bring your car to campus, and consider ride-sharing to save on fuel costs and make friends with other students!
If you’ll be living several hours away from home, see if the college offers a shuttle to the nearest train station or airport. Staying in touch via Skype and Google Hangouts and sending care packages to far-flung friends and family can help maintain supportive relationships as you begin a new chapter of your life.
Connecting with nature
Is there plenty of ‘green space’ on campus? Are there public parks and gardens where you can connect with nature? People who are more connected to nature report greater life satisfaction, self-esteem and positive affect than those less connected to nature (Capaldi et al., 2014). If your college is a concrete jungle, it’s even more important that you find ways to interact with the natural world. Consider keeping a plant in your dorm, like a low-maintenance cactus or succulent.
Student support and safety
Does the community support the college and vice versa? Can you find internships in town, or will you need to commute? Finding an on-campus job or lab position might not be difficult, but securing a professionally-oriented internship could require commuting to more urban areas, so take your primary mode of transportation into account when applying to off-campus positions.
Does the college encourage inclusion and diversity on campus by providing safe spaces for marginalized communities and advocacy training to campus employees and student leaders? Are confidential reporting services and psychological counseling available to all members of the campus community? Remember, this is your home away from home for the next 4 or more years, and you deserve to feel safe and secure!
What low-cost entertainment options are available?
An important part of college involves finding a work-life balance that works for you. When you’re not studying or working, staying active with a campus organization can aid your transition to college. But if you’re just looking to unwind after midterms, explore budget entertainment options that are available on campus and in the community. Many departments host visiting faculty lectures, and campus performances (musical, dramatic and everything in between) are often free or discounted for students. Many towns have a weekly farmers market, often with live music, and donation-based house shows, art walks and even salsa nights are a great way to support the community. And when you’re tired of Netflix, there’s always $5 movie night!
Does your college offer career counseling? Is there an internship center where you can attend workshops to help you build your resume, interview skills and more? Look for pre-professional organizations on campus where you can explore your ambitions with your peers!
Future academics, see if there’s an honors program or senior thesis option in your intended major, and familiarize yourself with faculty research interests. If there’s an undergraduate research journal in your area of interest, consider submitting to it (and if there’s no journal, start one)!
Want to save lives by working in healthcare? Look for student clinics and pre-med associations on campus. If your college offers health professions advising, you can formulate a four-year plan to keep you on track with important dates and deadlines.
Students from all disciplines can benefit from tutoring and mentoring, so if there’s writing assistance or chemistry tutoring (and it’s free!), try to take advantage of it early on. Viewing tutoring as an extra study session can help you focus on the material and reinforce difficult concepts, which will help you turn that A- to an A!
Capaldi, C. A., Dopko, R. L., & Zelenski, J. M. (2014). The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 976. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00976