How to Know if a College is “The One” for You

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Happy Valentine’s Day! In the spirit of the holiday, we thought we’d share a few ways you can find out if a college is the right “one” for you!

A lot of times you may hear people say, “I go to UW Oshkosh because it just felt right.” For someone who is trying to find a school… that reason really doesn’t provide a whole lot of concrete rationale for why it felt right. What was it about that school that attracted you to attend there? What are some things you should look for when visiting schools? How do you know how to compromise between having everything you want and knowing what you can live without?

There’s probably never going to be a perfect school (even if you think there is) – so here are some of the big things you should look for when visiting a college or “creeping on” a college online to see if you’re ready to make a commitment to apply and attend!

  1. How does the campus make you feel?
    Even if it doesn’t always seem like it, a college campus will give off a certain vibe. Some might give off an intimidating vibe. Others may have a sense of activity. And some might just be blah. (It isn’t always a super obvious vibe either, so don’t mistake every single campus as being “blah” if you don’t notice a vibe right away…) Some things to look for to help you ascertain the vibe are: the people, the scenery and the main gathering spaces. 

    If the people you meet on tour seem to be happy, you can probably assume the campus is a happy place. The scenery itself will also give off a vibe: are you a city person who is seeking a little country respite? Going to a massive college in the middle of a large city is probably not the right vibe for you, then. (And vice versa.) Also look at the actual campus environment. Is it clean? Is everything close together? Does it feel like a community?

    And finally – take a look at what are considered to be the main gathering spaces on campus. What is the level of activity in these places? Is the student union bustling with people or empty? Is there a ton of people in the main dining hall or does everyone eat in their own room?

    If you can’t visit a college campus in person, as tends to be the case with out-of-state and international students, you can utilize virtual tours to get a feel for the scenery. To see what the people are like – go to that college’s website or Facebook page! At UW Oshkosh we have very active social media sites that will allow you to see what goes on on campus, talk to more than 15 current UW Oshkosh students and explore what the city and campus have to offer.

    Phew. That was a lot of info.

  2. Is the campus you’re looking at in your budget?
    Let’s face it – if the price isn’t right, you’re not buying. You should keep this philosophy in the back of your mind as you begin (or continue) your college search. With that being said, don’t let the price tag fool you. Most colleges, including UW Oshkosh, offer various forms of financial aid to help lessen the financial burden on students. 

    Student loans, grants and scholarships are just a few ways to help fund your college education. It’s important to note that most of these require some work on your part – completion of FAFSA, applications, references, etc. One recommendation would be to keep a calendar of deadlines handy as to not miss any important dates.

    Working, whether it’s a work-study job on campus, a part-time job off campus or an internship, is another means to financing your education. Take note of the surrounding community. Are there employment opportunities nearby? If so, can you walk or will you need to find alternative transportation to work? What I like about UW Oshkosh for this one is that it is in a pretty good spot for jobs. There are a ton of places to have internships – regardless of your major – and a lot of employment opportunities right on campus and in the immediate vicinity. All are great ways to meet people, make some extra money and get involved in the community.

    One of the biggest things that throws students off is the FAFSA. If you have questions about how to complete this form online or just want to make sure you’re doing everything right, I suggest you attend College Goal Wisconsin next weekend, February 18 -19. There are a variety of locations across Wisconsin that will be hosting this event if you’re not in the area. If you wish to attend the event at Oshkosh, it will take place on Saturday, February 18, 2012 and start at 2 PM.

  3. Does the campus meet my academic needs?
    If you know there is a specific major you want to study, you should make sure that your future school has that major! In some cases, a manual construction of other majors can help you reach the same goal… but in general you’re going to want to make sure you’ll be able to find something close to what you’re interested in studying. (For example, you wouldn’t go to an art school to be an engineer.) 

    Take a look at the school’s specs for its programs as well. Just because it offers a certain major doesn’t mean the program is the best fit for you. Look for things like accreditation and program history. For example, UW Oshkosh’s College of Business is AACSB accredited and its nursing program has a 97% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX exam (national average: 88%) — which is necessary to become an RN. Do your homework and find out if your future program stacks up.

    If you’re not sure about what you want to major in – find a school that offers a wide array of choices! UW Oshkosh has more than 75 undergrad and grad degree programs to choose from, with several other minors and emphases to help round out your education. It will also help to go to a school that offers programs and resources to help you figure out what you want to do in the future.

    Remember that it isn’t just about the major – you should find a school that offers a number of educational opportunities outside the classroom. Look for colleges that offer active clubs, internship opportunities, professional development activities and research programs. UWO has more than 160 clubs and organizations; an assortment of internships, student teaching and clinical placements in the area; and offers skill building experiences such as resume workshops, networking nights, career fairs, mock interviews and more…

Well there you have it – three questions to keep in mind as you search for the right college for you.

If your college search seems overwhelming at any point in time, take a step back and relax. Feel free to reach out to UW Oshkosh students on our Facebook pages with any questions or concerns about anything from majors to student life. We are here to help you find out if UW Oshkosh is the right fit for you.

Oh and one final note… make sure you go into the college search open minded. Visit a ton of campuses. Ask great questions. Focus on yourself and your future goals. Where you discover your perfect fit might not originally be where you thought you’d end up… and it might not be where all your friends are going. You have to have the courage to go and meet new people and expand your horizons. Don’t worry. If the college is the right one for you, you’ll be just fine! :)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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