The Washington Post

What types of colleges fit your personality and goals?

In other words: Are you a big state school sort of student in search of research opportunities and major sporting events? Or are you a liberal arts school type who feels most comfortable in a small class? Urban or rural? Close to home or far away? A bargain school or expensive?

University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va. (Norm Shafer)

“It is sometimes difficult to get the students to identify what their criteria are,” Gamse wrote. “In that situation, we developed a questionnaire that was helpful in getting our children to think about and identify what was important to them.”

Here’s that questionnaire, which I revised a little. I also added some questions of my own:

ACADEMICS: What are a handful of disciplines that you might pick as a major?

Does it matter how you fit academically in the student body? If you assume that SAT scores are an indication of class standing, would you be okay being in the: Top 25 percent / Middle 50 percent / Bottom 25 percent / It doesn’t matter

Do you need flexibility in your class schedule? Not really / Summer courses / Online classes / Evening classes / Hybrid classes that meet in-person and online / Other

Are any of these programs of interest or importance to you? Study abroad / Internship programs / Career services / Undergraduate research / Other

DEMOGRAPHICS: What size school would you consider or prefer?

Small with less than 5,000 undergraduates (Examples: Carleton College in Minnesota, Bowie State University or McDaniel College in Maryland)

Medium with 5,000-10,000 undergraduates (Examples: Princeton University in New Jersey, Duke University in North Carolina or American University)

Large with 10,000 to 20,000 undergraduates (Examples: George Mason University or University of Virginia)

Very large with more than 20,000 undergraduates (Examples: Virginia Tech, University of Maryland or University of Michigan)

What type of school would you consider or prefer? Public / Private / Liberal arts / Religious / Historically black / All-women / Community college

Are there any student body demographics that are of interest or importance to you? Economic diversity / Racial diversity / Political diversity / Geographic diversity / International diversity / Religious diversity / Ratio of men to women / Other

GEOGRAPHY:  What section of the country would you like your college to be in? Northeast / Mid-Atlantic / New England / Midwest / Southeast / Southwest / West Coast / It doesn't matter

Does a region’s weather factor into your decision?

How far away from home would you like it to be? At least ____ hours away by car, train or bus, but no more than ____ hours away. Or at least ____ hours away by plane, but no more than ____ hours away.

How often do you want to travel home? How often can you afford to do so? At least once a month / A few times per semester / For every holiday and long break / For most holidays and long breaks / Only once a school year / Not at all / It doesn’t matter

What kind of location would you prefer or would you like to consider?

* Urban (Examples: University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, New York University in New York City or Howard University in D.C.)

* Suburban (Examples: Stanford University in Palo Alto or Marymount University in Arlington or University of Maryland in College Park)

* Small town and/or rural (Examples: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Penn State University in State College or St. Mary’s College of Maryland)

* It doesn’t matter

Are there any surrounding attractions that would make a college more appealing to you? Beaches / Mountains / Shopping / Theater / International population / Public transportation / Music clubs / Political opportunities / Relatives / Industry centers (like New York for finance or L.A. for entertainment) / Other


CAMPUS LIFE: Where do you plan to live? Dorm on campus / Apartment near campus / Greek house / Commute from home / Other

What sort of academic, medical, emotional or psychological support will you need at college? Do you have any of the following: Disability / Medical condition / Learning disorder / Mental health issue / Other

What clubs or activities do you plan on doing in college? Would you want to play a sport?

Does it matter if you have friends going to t he same college? Living in the same city? Living close by?

FINANCIAL AID: How much money have you and your parents saved for college? How much can you afford to spend each year?

Each college admissions Web site should now feature a net price calculator that estimates your annual bill. Calculate how much it might cost for you to attend a handful of schools that range in price (such as an in-state public school, a private liberal arts school and an out-of-state public school). With those figures in hand, sit down with your parents for a conversation about what you can afford. Some topics to discuss:

- How much of the total cost of college will your parents or other relatives pay, and how much will you be responsible for paying?

- Will you work while in college? Are there opportunities for a work-study position?

- How will you pay for room and board, travel and other expenses?

- After graduation, how much are you willing to pay each month toward student loan debt? Are you pursuing a career that typically pays enough to handle that amount of debt?

CONCLUSION: What are the most important factors of all those mentioned above? What other factors are important to you in choosing a college? 

For more higher education news, follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Here are some other articles that might be of interest:

U of Rochester admissions creates hip-hop music video

William & Mary ditches its traditional viewbook

Getting rejected from your dream school(s) isn’t a bad thing

Number college rankings proliferate — and some don’t make sense

Jenna Johnson is a political reporter who is covering the 2016 presidential campaign.


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