It’s college crunch time! Deciding what college to attend is one the most exciting decisions a person can ever make. Each school has unique features and so do you. As you search for a college, my advice is “ To thine own self be true”. In other words, the best way to know what college is for you, is to spend some time getting to know yourself.
Here are a few important questions to ask yourself with suggestions for answering the question if you do not already have an answer as you search for the right college or university for YOU:
1. What am I interested in? It’s very important to know what YOU are interested in. If an answer does not pop into your head immediately you have work to do in terms of pinpointing what you are interested in. One way to discover your interest is to keep track of the thinks that make you say hmm…or raise questions. Another way to discover your interest is to make a list of the things that you find most pleasurable. A third thing you can try is jot down what captures your attention in school, in magazines, books, and online. If all else fails, simply take an online interest survey like the O*Net free interest survey which can be found at http://careerplanning.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=careerplanning&cdn=careers&tm=17&f=00&su=p284.13.342.ip_p554.23.342.ip_&tt=2&bt=1&bts=1&zu=http%3A//www.mynextmove.org/explore/ip
2. What careers are connected to what I am interested in? Once you have identified your interests, find out what careers enable you to go deeper with your interests. Websites like Careersnz (http://www2.careers.govt.nz/tools/jobs-by-interest/) and the University of Washington Career Planning Website http://www.washington.edu/doit/Lessons/Career/prep.html ) provide useful interest and career matching tools.
3. What colleges prepare me to pursue a career related to what I am interested in? The Princeton Review (http://www.princetonreview.com/colleges-majors.aspx), US News Best Colleges Report (http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/spp+50) and Peterson (http://www.petersons.com/college-search.aspx) provide resources that describe the best schools for each major. List the colleges that are best in your area of interest- large or small as well as local or far. It’s great to know what your options are.
4. How do I learn best? It is important to have a clear understanding of the best learning environment for you. Some people learn well independently through on-line courses, others learn best in a small classroom setting. Many students are energized by a large lecture with hundreds of students and others like hands on experience through apprenticeships and internships. There are so many schools with unique learning opportunities. The point is schools ranking is important but how a school matches your particular learning preference is more important.
You might ask: What makes you an authority on college matching? I think that is a very good question. I’ve graduated from four very different schools- Spelman College, New York University, Columbia University and Harvard. Each school has challenged me and pushed me to discover more about myself, taught me new skills, brought about new opportunities, new friends and treasured memories. I selected each school because their programs enabled me to explore my interests through practicums, field- work, research studies and internships. All the programs I participated in were linked to projects, jobs and experiences that I enjoy doing but most importantly each school has given me greater opportunity “To Thine Own Self be true.”