Location, atmosphere and fit figure in choice

By Rachel Schaub on December 16, 2013


When thinking about college and making future decisions, it is very easy for me to get overwhelmed. When I first began my college search, sitting down with numerous books, college mailings, and a computer, I may or may not have banged my head against the table once or twice.

In my junior year, I made a list of all the qualities important to me in a college and then ranked them. I’ve been editing the list as I discover more about myself and what I’m looking for in post-secondary education. That list has been instrumental in narrowing down which schools I am interested in, and the three most important factors for me, shockingly, have not changed since I first made the list. Location, atmosphere, and whether or not I can see myself at a school are my top three priorities, and have allowed me to narrow my choices before worrying about college tours or application fees.

Growing more flexible on location
I have wanted to live in a big city for as long as I can remember, and when I began narrowing down college choices, I was adamant that location be taken into consideration.

As an avid reader and an aspiring writer and book editor, I always pictured myself living in a big city, but as application deadlines draw nearer, I have widened my scope to any “reasonably sized” city, because I found the offerings of two or three cities to be fairly slim. This ability to work within the constraints I set for myself taught me a lot about being flexible and adjusting, qualities I believe will help me in the future.

Another prerequisite in my college decision is the atmosphere of the college, that intangible something I felt upon stepping onto a campus for the first time. My mom tells the story of a school we toured in Chicago. We had finished parking and were going to check in when I told her that I was definitely not applying to the school. She was understanding, but when she asked me what made me so sure, I had no definite answer for her beyond saying that the school didn’t feel “right.”

Visualizing myself on campus, in class

The most important factor for me in choosing a school is whether or not I can picture myself there. If I can’t see myself sleeping in the dorms and studying in the library, eating in the dining hall or meeting with a study group in the courtyard, I’m not going to apply. Every school that I have toured has been great, but not all of them have been great for me.

In the early days of my college search, I was fixated on the idea of finding the “right” school, that one school that fit all of my criteria and was exactly what I wanted. I was convinced that unless I went to this “dream school,” I would not be in the right place and I would not enjoy my college experience.

I have since learned that the process of finding a “perfect” school is impossible in and of itself, but I believe there are many “great” schools for everyone. Discovering this has taken many college tours and even more research sessions, but this knowledge has made the process less daunting. I now know that whatever school I choose based on these criteria will be “right” for me, and I look forward to making the decision.

About the Author

Rachel Schaub

Rachel Schaub

Loyola High School, Mankato, Minn.
Hometown: North Mankato, Minn.


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