It’s estimated that there are over 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States, and searching for the right one can feel exciting—and overwhelming—at the same time. Finding the right fit means doing plenty of research before applying and asking yourself some serious questions about what’s truly important for your college experience.
Choosing a school is about way more than the name on the diploma or pleasing a particular relative who wants you to follow in their footsteps. Where you end up can impact numerous parts of your life, from academic studies and social activities to internship and networking opportunities, not to mention your overall happiness.
Whether you’re just starting to gather information or in the midst of virtual campus tours and applications, these six tips will help you navigate this important decision.
1. Create a short list
After researching schools online or visiting them in person, put together a list of your top six to ten colleges or universities to streamline the application process. Make sure these schools are compatible with your ideas about location, classroom size, faculty, majors, cost, work opportunities and the people on campus.
2. Ask plenty of questions
Whether touring a school or attending an information session, ask thoughtful questions such as “How soon will I begin classes that are relevant to my career?” “Who are the college’s industry partners?” and “Who are the successful alumni who’ve graduated from the college?” If you’re given the opportunity to speak with current students or recent graduates go for it.
3. Get specific
Find out which majors or degree programs you’re most interested in and learn about the faculty. Do they have real-world experience and a relevant curriculum that will help prepare you for the industry you want to pursue? What are the school’s class sizes and faculty-to-student ratio? If you prefer to learn in small environments, for example, then you may want to consider more intimate college settings.
4. Look into financial aid and scholarships
We all know college is expensive, but higher education is often more affordable than many families think thanks to grants, loans, scholarships and other benefits. Start your journey by filling out a FAFSA and speak with an experienced member of a college’s financial aid staff to get specific questions answered.
5. Research jobs and internships
Does your dream college have a dedicated Career Center to help place you in internships or part-time jobs while in school? You’ll want to investigate if a school hosts job fairs, on-campus interviews and offers one-on-one career counseling. Many schools even have dedicated advisors who can assist with resume writing and interviewing tips.
6. Visit social media
After visiting a college or university’s website, be sure to check out their social media accounts. Whether on Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, you’ll learn a lot about what a school has to offer in terms of campus life, diversity, the surrounding neighborhood and more by looking at their online presence. Consider following the schools on your short list so you can keep up with them during the application process.
If creativity, real-world experience and access to world-class industry partners are at the top of your college wish list, attend FIDM’s Virtual Spring Open House to learn more!
Check out the FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) blog for more advice and success stories.