The old Christmas song "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" has a lyric that says "He's makin' a list and checkin' it twice." When it comes to college selection, high schoolers need to make their list and check it twice.
For juniors who are considering a four-year college, it's time to do some thinking. You may have never thought of yourself as a "consumer" about college matters. Perhaps to you, consumers are those people who buy laundry detergent and then give their opinion to some telephone survey person.
Not so fast, future frosh. This is where informed decision making becomes crucial. In past comments here we have addressed the issue of money as a consideration for attending college. As you may have noted, money is only one of your considerations. Deal with it after you address some other important criteria.
When you ask yourself what you want from a college, don't be shy. What do you really want? Do you want a school that has a beautiful campus in a secluded part of the country or one that is in the heart of a big city? Are the school's prestige and reputation important to you? Can you define what level of academics you prefer in your chosen area of concentration? How far from home do you want to be?
Will teaching assistants (TAs) instructing some of your classes satisfy you or do you want senior faculty teaching you? How about access to that faculty? Will your school have professors who are approachable in situations beyond office hours? How about student body size? How about the weather? Are you getting the picture here?
There are so many considerations. You are the one who should make the call, though. So what are you waiting for? Get out paper and pencil right now and write down what is truly in your heart about college. Even if you have never set foot on a college campus, you may have an ideal stored away in your dreams. Write it down. Over the next few weeks, keep adding to your list.
By Thanksgiving, you should have quite a detailed summary of what you want from a college. Then it will be up to you to find some matches for your candidate list that will form the nucleus for your college search. Your research should come from guide books, campus visits, and your own honest reactions.
If you can state what you really want from a college, you'll find that there are several (or more) out there waiting with open arms.
Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.