The college admissions period is one of the most stressful, overwhelming and exciting parts of a young person’s life. Picking the right college is a big deal. You must consider many factors when deciding where to spend the next four years of your life.
I attended a small, private college preparatory school in Florida from sixth to twelfth grade. My graduating class had 57 students. The same group of people had surrounded me for seven years, which I wouldn’t ever change. I was comfortable, had close friends, created strong bonds with my teachers and coaches and enjoyed going to school. It was easy for me to get involved and learn. The school was very competitive because of the small size and similar goals the 57 of us shared. College had been a topic of conversation since eighth grade. I thought about college almost every day.
While I loved attending a small school, I wanted something different for college. I had grown up hearing all about life as a Gator from my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and two older siblings. Everyone close to me had gone to UF, so I grew up watching football games and dressed up as a cheerleader. Even though my whole childhood involved my family’s love for the Gators, there was never any pressure to attend.
I was inspired to tour schools out-of-state because many of the students from my old school left Florida for college. I wanted to explore as many options as possible to find my best fit. I ended up applying to schools all over the East Coast.
For all those seniors in high school worried about where they will spend the next four years of their life, here are some tips from a college freshman about choosing the right university for you:
Education is very, very expensive. Many people take on student debt when attending college, which is hard to pay off. Everything costs money, even if you have Bright Futures or get a scholarship. Look into scholarship opportunities at every school you apply to so you can minimize the cost of your higher education.
2. Distance from Home
How hard do you want it to be to get back home? Location is so important, but more specifically, distance from home. As someone who applied to schools both in and out of state, I am so glad I didn’t overlook my in-state universities. It is so nice to go home every once in a while to see family, watch your siblings reach a milestone or relax. College can be stressful, and sometimes, going home is what you need the most. I am so lucky to be under four hours away from home, and I couldn’t imagine being much farther away. On the other hand, I also have friends who haven’t seen their families since they left home in August and are thriving. Travel costs to and from home are another expense. Distance from home is important to me, and even though it is different for everyone, it needs to be heavily considered.
3. Academics and Status
The most important part about college is getting a solid education to help you succeed in the workforce. According to Warrington College of Business Newsroom, UF is a top five public university in the United States and has great programs for everyone. Niche says UF is also a top 30 national university. With the second-best career center in the country, UF is dedicated to helping students succeed not only during their time in school, but also after, according to UFL News. The rankings could go on forever as UF truly is an “everything” school.
The size of UF was one of the most significant changes in my transition from a small private school. Going from a graduating class of 57 to a school with over 50,000 was overwhelming, but I am so glad that I chose a large school. A large school exposes you to diverse individuals and there is always an opportunity to meet someone new. Large schools, such as UF, typically have bigger class sizes. Consider a smaller university if you like to have small classes and sit in the front row of every class. Even though UF is a large public university, my biggest class has 100 students, and the rest have, on average, 20, similar to my high school class sizes.
5. Extracurricular Opportunities
UF offers a plethora of extracurricular activities. There is a club for everyone, and there is always an opportunity to explore your passions. I knew I wanted to be an involved student at any school I attended, and with so many options, it is so easy to do just that. The only downside is that it can be competitive to get into certain clubs due to the vast number of students. You aren’t going to get every position you apply for, but that is just alright. Instead, you can join another organization. There are clubs for those who want to continue playing sports, with niche hobbies and focused on a career.
6. Campus Life
School spirit was another criterion I had in my college search. The sports at UF are incredible and so fun to attend. It is ranked number one in best college athletics in America by Niche for a reason. There is no lack of school spirit anywhere on campus. You can always find someone wearing UF merchandise or orange and blue everywhere you look. Athletic games are filled with lively viewers, and the energy is unparalleled.
Consider how each college makes you feel and go where you feel the best. After touring so many schools, I knew UF was the one by the way I thought about it and felt when on campus. I was excited to go here and knew it would be a strong fit since it met all of the criteria.
Picking a college can be a hard decision to make because it is so important and costly. You must consider the economic, social and academic aspects of all colleges that accept you. I honestly couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else, but that isn’t to say everything is always perfect. Keep in mind that everyone is different, so pick the college that is right for you. Go Gators!