How do you choose the right school for you? Here are a few suggestions from local counselors:
1. Relax. “There isn’t just one right school in the world that’s right for you,” says Wendy Krakauer, head counselor at Roosevelt High. “There are a whole lot of them.”
2. Search your soul about who you are, how you learn best and where you want to live:
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(See accompanying “soul searching” story .)
3. Check college-guide Web sites such as the College Board’s (www.collegeboard.com) — one of several that will feed you a list of possible college picks based on your answers to an online questionnaire.
4. To get beyond schools’ marketing hype, check out a major national survey that assesses schools on key points indicating educational quality. Schools don’t have to disclose results, but many do on their Web sites; or ask their admissions office. More info: http://nsse.iub.edu/5. Research the “personality” of schools to see if you’ll feel at home (heavy Greek scene? politically active? rah-rah football spirit? lots of racial diversity?). Guidebooks can get you started; also read the student newspaper and chat with the school’s rep at a college fair. (See our schedule of local college fairs.)
6. Talk to students at the school. If you don’t know any, call the college switchboard and ask for a residence-hall front desk, the student newspaper or a student-government office.
7. Visit your top choices, if at all possible. (See www.seattletimes.com/collegeguide for tips on touring schools.)
8. Apply to enough schools to cover your bases. “A rule of thumb is six,” says Krakauer. “A couple of schools you’d love to go to but your chances are slim; a couple of schools you have a decent chance of getting into; and a couple you know you can get into.”
9. Consider including at least one local school, to accommodate possible life events — say, a parent’s sudden job loss, or falling hopelessly in love.
— Patti Jones
SOUL-SEARCHING: A FEW QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
1. Learning style: Do some soul-searching about who you are and how you learn best. Do you prefer lectures or discussions? Are you self-motivated or need nudging? Do you like large classes, where you can get lost in the crowd, or small classes, where your profs know you by name?
2. Lifestyle: Where do you want to live? Would you like to take your laundry home on weekends or explore new ground?
3. School size: Small, large or medium? “If you’re not sure, you can always sample some of the local ones,” suggests Audrey Threlkeld, academic dean at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. Her suggestions:
To get the feel of a small liberal-arts college of around 1,000-2,000 students, try visiting Whitman College in Walla Walla, The Evergreen State College in Olympia, the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, or Lewis & Clark College or Reed College in Portland.
For the feel of a small university of 3,000-6,000, try Seattle University or Gonzaga University.
For a large school of 7,000-10,000, try Eastern Washington University or Western Washington University.
A mega-university? Stroll around the UW.
4. Prestige: Should you try for that college with the biggest name?
That depends, says Threlkeld. “If you have a choice between Yale and [a less-prestigious school], you might want to choose Yale because it’s very selective and full of bright, motivated students who are excited about learning and posing questions that push your thinking.”
A school such as Yale also can add cachet to your résumé, making it easier to land work after graduation.
But consider: When researchers compared the earnings of students who were accepted to big-name colleges but attended lesser-known schools with the earnings of students who attended the elite schools, they found that both groups earned an equal amount.
Why? Highly motivated, hard-working kids do well no matter where they go to school. So, you might prefer to attend a less-expensive college and have money left for travel or graduate school.