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Picking a college? 10 questions to ask yourself first

By Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte.

Last week, I wrote about going beyond the “usual suspects” when crafting your college list. It is a good concept in theory but many parents and students are stumped as to how to do it.

You may think you know exactly what you want out of your college experience – or you may be clueless. The following questions will ask you to examine your priorities and preferences, your likes and dislikes and help you define what will make your college experience as fulfilling as possible. Responding to many of these questions will guide your family to create a more meaningful and realistic list.

1 Do you have thoughts on a possible college major? If so, name a few. If you don’t, don’t worry. Most colleges don’t ask students to declare their majors until the end of sophomore year. But if you do have a focused interest in engineering, theater or fashion design or many others, there are colleges that specialize in those programs or are particularly noted for their strong departments.

2 What activities have you participated in during high school that you’d like to continue doing in college? Were there activities that you weren’t able to participate in during high school that you’d like to pursue during college? If so, name them.

3 If you chose to take a year off before heading to college, what would you love to do? Are there careers or places you’d love to explore?

4 Assess your need for diversity. Do you like being surrounded by people who look like you or would you thrive in a more diverse environment?

5 Do you consider yourself a good advocate for your own academic needs? Do you think you might fall through the cracks at a larger university?

6 Do you want to “start fresh” and go to a college where you don’t know anyone? Or will you feel more comfortable if there are many students from your high school class at the college you choose?

7 Would you enjoy seeing many of the same people often or would you prefer being in an environment where you can be anonymous? Do you think you’d be happier being a “big fish in a small pond” or a “small fish in a big pond”?

8 Do you feel ready to move away from home and be completely independent?

9 What degree of challenge makes you feel most comfortable? Do stronger students push you to try harder or do you enjoy the confidence of comfortably sitting at the top of the class?

10 Would you describe your need for culture (museums, restaurants, events), shopping, big athletics, etc. as high, medium or low?

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com
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