Four Questions to Kick-Start Your College Planning

Not sure where to start your search for your perfect college? The following four questions are a fantastic way to begin your college planning.

by Cait Tysoe // October 19, 2022 

1) Do I know for certain what I'd like to study? HINT: It's okay if the answer is no!

You likely have already thought about this question, as it’s a fairly natural place to begin the search for your perfect-fit college!

If you know for sure what it is that you’d like to pursue studying at university, you’ve got a clear starting point: researching which schools have the best programs in your subject of interest. The key here is that the schools with your best-fit programs aren’t always the most obvious or well-known! 

If you have a hyper-specific area of focus, this initial research might be the most informative of your college search. For example, if your intended major is in food science or food justice, Cornell University might be an automatic top choice. Or, if it is cognitive science, UC San Diego might move to the top of your list. If you don’t, creating a list of great programs in your broad area of interest—be it medicine, law, languages or fine arts—is the best way to start. 

If you don’t yet know what you’d like to study, that’s absolutely fine! Thinking through the following questions should help you narrow down your options.

2) Which is more appealing to me: studying at a large research university or at a small liberal arts college?​

The classroom experience at different universities varies depending on their size, focus and teaching methodologies. If you’re hoping to attend a four-year college, the main two categories for you to consider are research universities and liberal arts colleges.

Research universities tend to be significantly larger than liberal arts colleges, which can both mean more research opportunities, major options and pre-professional tracks AND fewer one-on-one interactions with professors and freedoms when it comes to academic exploration. Likewise, the smaller student:professor ratio at liberal arts schools tends to allow for more intimate seminar-style courses, while research universities rely on more large lectures, especially during the first two years of instruction.

For more information, check back next week for a blog post on the key differences between these types of colleges.

3) What picture comes to mind when I think about my PERFECT college experience?

When you think of your perfect college experience, do you:

  1. See yourself cheering at the football stadium on a Friday night after a long day of tailgating? 
  2. Picture yourself color-coding your Latin notes in a grand library, latte in-hand? 
  3. Imagine yourself pulling all-nighters at the chem lab surrounded by smiling friends and empty takeout containers?
  4. Think of something else entirely!


Everyone has a different dream when it comes to their college experience. The key to achieving yours is to try your best to align your vision with schools’ campus cultures. 

Want to know how to identify a campus culture? Check back next week for our post on choosing the right college for your ideal experience.

For some students, proximity to family is—and should be—a major factor in choosing a school. For those with close family relationships, the difference between maintaining and minimizing this support system could make or break their college experience. 

For other students—those already used to boarding situations or those itching to develop their independence—, this is a significantly smaller consideration.

Just remember: there is no shame in any decision you make on this front. But, it’s best to consider this question before you fall in love with a school located somewhere that doesn’t make sense for you.



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