Finding a Public College That Fits

As your high school years begin to wind down and you take those first steps toward adulthood, it’s important to take time to consider the type of college experience you’re seeking.
This is an exhilarating time! You have the chance to start fresh and shape the trajectory of your future, taking aim at whatever success means to you. When it comes to choosing the right college, the challenge is in narrowing your search to reflect your educational ambitions and personal goals. Whatever you hope to gain from higher education—lifelong friendships, job market preparedness, academic exploration, or all of the above—you’ll need to identify the traits that are most important to you in a potential university.
Related: What Really Matters in Your College Search
If you’ve set your sights on attending a public college, you may already be aware of the benefits that come with attending a state-funded institution. To name just a few, public schools are more likely to offer a vast array of academic and pre-professional programs, provide widespread diversity of both thought and culture, and are renowned for their ample research opportunities. But as graduation draws nearer, you need to start thinking more seriously about reducing your pool of options from there.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. How can you be sure to select a school that will meet your academic and cocurricular needs and provide you with a lasting network of great friends? How can you tell if a university will truly feel like “home” after first-year orientation ends?
Your first step toward choosing the right college for you is to identify your priorities. Are you seeking a sense of balance between academic rigor and social growth? Are you planning to begin college with a clear idea of the path you plan to pursue, or are you more interested in trying a variety of subjects and finding your passion? Think carefully about the college experience you envision for yourself, and get an idea of the qualities that are most important to you when selecting a school. But do keep an open mind—you may be surprised at what the college search process will teach you about yourself.
College is about finding new passions and expanding upon them. If you’re one of the many high school students who aren’t quite sure what they want to study at the university level, you might be under the impression that a smaller university will allow a more personalized educational path that will accommodate your academic exploration.
But the fact is that even larger institutions are trending toward urging students to challenge themselves—to discover new interests and expand their horizons. After all, in today’s fast-paced technological economy, universities are tasked with training students for careers that may not even exist yet!
If you’re excited by the prospect of spending your college years preparing for an innovative, groundbreaking professional future, look for universities with exploratory programs and makerspaces that will encourage you to experiment broadly while still progressing efficiently toward graduation.
It’s also worth noting that a larger university is likely to have numerous academic and extracurricular programs, plentiful internship opportunities, and ample connections to the surrounding business community—all powerful mechanisms for educational growth. A wide variety of options will ultimately translate into the ability to truly customize your college experience to fit your unique interests, strengths, and goals.

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