There is no one “perfect” university — even U.S. News’ College Rankings report will admit that. Instead, it’s all about finding a school that is right for you. There are over 2400 non-profit, four year colleges and universities in the United States. From large, public research institutions to small liberal arts schools, to religiously affiliated colleges and polytechnic institutes focusing on science and engineering, whatever you are looking for, you can find.
And don’t discount how important the setting is. Do you want to live in a major city? In a quiet, rural area? Or maybe in a college town? Do you want to be in the Northeast, with picturesque campuses with old brick buildings and ivy? Do you want to live in the mountains and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle? Maybe you’d prefer the sun and warmth of California. Do you want to move far away from home and experience a totally different way of life, or do you want to stay close to your home and family?
Think hard about what you want out of your college experience. Check out the course catalogs and learn what majors and courses schools offer and require. What do you see that excites you? In addition to meeting your academic needs, do you want a great arts scene? Greek life? An amazing football tradition? A small, close knit student body? That’s the first step to creating a list of schools that will be a good fit for you.
At the beginning of your search, don’t feel limited to famous schools or where your parents or older siblings went. Cast a wide net. Consider places you might never have thought twice about. And ask around. If something about a school intrigues you, contact their admissions office and see if they can put you in touch with current students who can tell you about life on campus.
In reality, there is no one perfect school. There most likely isn’t even a perfect school for you. Instead, you can probably create a list of a dozen or more schools that would be a great fit for you — where you would be able to expand your horizons, challenge yourself academically, get a great education, and make life-long friends.
We know that applying to college can be an intimidating and even stressful experience, but try to remember, this is the start of an amazing journey. It’s all about finding the right fit.