How to Investigate Your College Choices

Dear Harlan: I currently live in Texas and I’m having difficulty choosing a university for my bachelor’s degree in criminology. Would you please tell me what factors should I be looking for when choosing between three universities? Here are my options: University of California-Irvine, University of Florida and Florida State University. How can I find answers?

— Searching

Dear Searching:  You need to find the schools where you can be your best socially, emotionally, physically, financially and academically. Pick the two areas that matter most to you. Find at least three students on each of the campuses you’re looking to attend. Ask them the following five questions:

(1) Why did you choose this school, and what other schools did you consider? This will tell you about the person’s decision-making process and help you explore more options.

(2) Where are three places at your current university that make campus feel like home? This will help you identify places that can make campus feel like home for you, too. It also can help identify more people to contact.

(3) Who are your five closest friends on campus, and how did you meet them? This will help you get a sense of how activities and organizations can help you find your people on campus.

(4) What has been the hardest part of your college experience, and how did you get through it? This will help you define realistic expectations and help identify resources on campus (should you need them).

(5) What advice do you have for someone who is going through this process? This will help you gain some instant wisdom and give you someone in your corner.

BONUS: Ask specific social, emotional, physical, financial or academic questions.

If you’re uncomfortable asking questions, imagine that someone is asking you these same questions in the future. The people you’re asking LOVE helping. It’s why they volunteer and work on campus.

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