Choosing the college that's right for you will probably be one of the most important
decisions you have ever had to make. But RELAX- with over 3,100 colleges
in the United States, there are lots of right colleges for every student. The
only wrong college choices are uninformed choices. If you wait until the last
minute to begin choose a college, you may not have time to do a thorough college
search and you may be forced to select institutions on the basis of one or two
factors alone. For instance, you may choose to apply to a particular institution
because a few of your friends plan to attend or because your parents or siblings
have attended. Similarly, you may be tempted to apply to colleges because of
their reputation alone. Remember, it's important to be less concerned with gaining
admission to a "good school" than to one that would be good for you.
To identify five to ten colleges that would be a good match for you, consider
the following Three Steps:
STEP ONE: Know your personal and academic profile
- PERSONAL: Start by learning about yourself and making some decisions
about your career goals. Use the Discover program in the Career/Transfer Center
to assess your interests, abilities and work values and then research careers
that might meet those areas. Or take one of the Guidance classes at San José
City College that focus on self-assessment, career development and/or college
success. Interview someone who works in the field that interests you. Volunteer
or do an internship in the career field that interests you. Find out how careers
link with certain college majors by using the resources available in the Career/Transfer
Center. Meet with a counselor to discuss your educational and career goals.
- ACADEMIC: Make a transfer file and keep a copy of your transcripts from
all colleges you have attended (and high school, if applicable) and any awards
or honors you have received. Take this file with you whenever you meet with
a college admission representative.
STEP TWO: Know what you're looking for in a college
- ACADEMIC PROGRAMS/MAJORS: What is your chosen major? Even though many
colleges might have your major program, the courses you might take at one college
may be completely different than the courses at another because the focus of
the department may differ. For example, communication studies at one school
may focus on mass media and journalism, where at another school may relate more
to language development and interpersonal communications. What do you want to
focus on? If you have a particular major in mind, you may want to find an institution
that specializes in that field or has outstanding faculty in that area. If you
have a career in mind, you may want to pick a college that has internship opportunities
or strong recruitment programs targeted for your field of interest.
- ADMISSION DIFFICULTY: How difficult is it to be admitted to this campus
and/or major? Are you looking for a highly selective college and/or major that
admits only the top few applicants each year? Does your academic record meet
the academic and course requirements for admission at a highly selective college?
- LOCATION: Where do you want to go to college? Would attending school
at a distance from your family and friends be desirable, or would it make you
lonely? Cities can offer a wide assortment of activities, exposure to new ideas
and cultural exchange. They can give you access to more musical, theater, and
performing and fine arts events than you could ever hope to attend. Some of
the disadvantages of a city campus are the noise, commotion and stress of urban
life and the higher cost of living. A campus located in a smaller town or rural
area may encourage students to participate in more campus-related or community-oriented
- SIZE: Many large campuses, especially those with graduate schools, house
fine research facilities and students at these universities can become involved
in top-level research. However, you may find yourself in classes of 200 or more
students that are taught by graduate students. At a smaller college, you are
likely to find smaller classes, more individualized instruction, fewer teaching
assistants and a smaller faculty. As one of only a few thousand students, you
will usually find more personalized contact.
- STUDENT POPULATION: Do you want to go to an all-women's or an all-men's
college or a co-ed school? How about a historically black college? Certain colleges
are known for their student body's religious heritage, political activity or
dedication to the fine arts or research. College publications will begin to
reveal these characteristics, but it's important to feel like you "fit",
and the best way to determine that is to visit the campus for yourself.
- EXTRA-CURRICULAR/SOCIAL LIFE: Are there any activities that you know
you want to participate in? Most colleges have competitive or intramural sports
teams. Is it important for you to attend a college that has a particular sports
team to play on or to watch? Do you want to participate in a fraternity or sorority?
A particular club? Do you want to spend a semester or academic year on an international
- COST: Colleges can range in cost from publicly funded state colleges
and universities to private and independent universities. Don't let this be
the biggest factor influencing your college choice. Surprisingly, due to the
manner in which financial aid is allocated, attending a more expensive private
college might end up being your most affordable option. The majority of college
students receive some form of financial aid. Don't let a college's "sticker
price" scare you off.
STEP THREE: Know where to find the answers
- YOUR COUNSELOR: SJCC Counselors can help you find answers to your questions
about various college options. It is strongly recommended that you meet with
your counselor on a regular basis to ensure you are on the right track.
- THE CAREER/TRANSFER CENTER: The CTC has a wealth of resources to assist
you in your college search. It is located in the back of the counseling building.
- COLLEGE REPRESENTATIVES: SJCC invites representatives from 4-year colleges
to campus to meet with students on a regular basis. These representatives want
to help you figure out if their campus is a good fit for you. Sign-up to meet
with a representative in the Career/Transfer Center.
- COLLEGE VISITS: There is no substitute for a college visit for figuring
out whether a school is right for you. Most colleges give tours daily, so call
ahead to schedule a time. Make sure you visit when school is in session, and
talk to current students, if possible. Don't be afraid to ask questions!
Remember, your final college choices should include one or two "long
shots," four or five "realistic," and one or two "highly
likely" schools. Good luck with your search, especially with your final
college choice. Be diligent and it will certainly pay off!