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What to Ask During Your College Application Search

Are you currently looking to apply to colleges and universities? The process can be pretty nerve-wracking, but it doesn’t have to be outright terrible. This time is your opportunity to find the right school for your major– whether it’s your dream school or the most convenient school to get into.

This guide will break down some helpful tips and significant questions to ask when applying to colleges and universities. Our goal is to help you make the right choice to find the right fit. To start, you’re going to need to think about yourself and what you want from your college experience. Let’s dive into some questions you’ll need to ask yourself.

What to Ask During Your College Application Search

There are a few questions you’ll need to ask yourself when it comes to your needs, finances, preferences, and other college factors. We recommend sitting down with a word processor or pen with paper to write down your answers. The research will make it easier to reference when you’re searching for colleges to attend. Check out our ultimate guide to the college application process for more information.

Questions to Ask – Your Needs and Finances

When it comes to your unique needs as a person, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are my strengths and character qualities?
  • Am I independent, clever, creative, bright, or highly motivated?
  • What kind of academic achievements do I have on my record?
  • What are my work goals and preferences? Do I want to work to survive or work to learn?

Your answers will paint a pretty clear picture of the potential challenges you can handle when it comes to college. For example, if you want to learn, you might need to apply for colleges with paid internship opportunities. If you haven’t considered a career yet, now would be an excellent time to consider what you want out of college.

From there, it’s time to consider finances. Finances can be the biggest roadblock that working-class students face when it comes to attending college. Unfortunately, it’s still something you will need to consider throughout your college search. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will your financial limitations affect which college you choose? 
  • Have you considered grants, scholarships, loans, and other financial assistance if your dream college is too expensive?
  • Will your family provide your tuition and other expenses, or will you work during school?
  • If you qualify for financial aid, how much debt can you reasonably handle after you graduate? Base your answer on your expected career and what entry-level positions in that industry pay.
  • If you must work during college, what type of class load can you handle?
  • Will you need to be in a dorm, or can you stay home while in school?

Keep in mind that if your credit hours fall under half, you might not be eligible for some financial aid options. Try to find a good balance between your class load and your workload.

Questions to Ask – Your Preferences

Piggybacking off of our last section, consider your housing situation and where exactly you want to attend college. Your choices all come down to your preferences and how you would like your college experience to be. Consider the following questions:

  • Do you prefer to commute from your home, live on your college campus, or live in your housing near your chosen campus?
  • Do you want to attend university in a major city or a small town?
  • In what part of the state of the country would you like to attend school?
  • Do you want to be close to home or only come home for the holidays and breaks?
  • Do you want to attend a large school or a small school?
  • Do you want to attend a co-ed or single-gender school?
  • When it comes to the schools you are considering, do they have particularly rigid rules in place? Are you willing to put up with those rules until you graduate?
  • What extracurricular activities do you want to participate in, and does your prospective college provide access to them?
  • Do you want to enter into a sports program or attend a school with a strong sports culture on campus?
  • Are recreational amenities on your radar, such as gyms, pools, etc.?
  • Do you want to be a part of a strong creative arts program or cub? Does your prospective school offer such a program?
  • Do you want to be academically challenged? Some schools are well-known for having challenging programs and professors.
  • Does your prospective college offer the major you want to focus on?
  • Are you interested in any special programs, internships, work programs, or opportunities to study abroad?
  • What is your social life like? Do you want to attend a school with a highly social campus?
  • Do you plan on joining a sorority or fraternity house, and are such groups offered by your school?

Some of these questions might not seem like they matter, but you’d be surprised by how much a sports team or geek life can dominate certain schools– and some people don’t enjoy that.

Questions to Ask – College Factors

Now that you’ve considered your needs, preferences, and finances, it’s time to start asking questions about your prospective schools. Consider these questions:

  • How much does tuition cost?
  • Where is the school located?
  • What SAT/ACT scores and GPA are minimum requirements for admission into the school?
  • What percentage of applicants are admitted? Is the school particularly rigid when it comes to accepting new students?
  • What percentage of the school’s freshmen receive financial aid? This information is often available via the financial aid department of your chosen school.
  • What is the school’s reputation for things like academics? Is it an academically renowned school?
  • What are the strongest programs or departments for your particular school, such as football, STEM, etc.?
  • Does the school have the major you want to pursue? Is the program reputable with high graduation rates?
  • Will the school accept your advanced placement or honours classes for college credit? Does this particularly matter to you?
  • Does the school of your choice offer additional or supplementary programs you want to pursue, such as foreign exchange programs and internships?
  • How many graduates move on to graduate school or employment within a year of graduating from school? This information may be available via the college’s website, but a quick search will likely yield results.
  • Is the campus life of the school of your choice what you’re looking for?
  • Would the school be considered a commuter school in which most students live nearby? Alternatively, are they a dorm-heavy school with lots of students living on campus?
  • What are housing options like?

When compared to your previous choices of schools in terms of preference, these answers can be beneficial.

Concluding Your College Search and Choosing the Right School

Now that you’ve considered these questions, your answers will provide a better profile for what you’re looking for in college. Such a profile makes it so much easier to assemble potential lists of universities to attend. 

Remember– you don’t have to do it all alone, either. Take the time to speak with your counsellor, advisor, or family to help make better decisions about prospective colleges. Your counsellor and advisor will give you more insight into how good of a shot you have at getting admitted and if you would be a good fit for the school on an academic level. Just as well, reaching out to someone in the higher education field is a smart move to determine how financially aligned your needs are with the school itself.

Once you’ve made a list of about ten to fifteen potential colleges to attend, it’s time to start narrowing them down into safety schools, reach schools, and dream schools.

Your safety schools are colleges that you’re okay with attending, and you are very likely to get accepted to. Your reach schools are colleges that you will probably get into but might be more challenging than your safety schools. Finally, your list of dream schools will include colleges that you would love to attend but might be challenging to get accepted into academically. Ideally, you should have about three schools per group, though you can adjust this number as needed. For each school, note application deadlines required materials, and application costs required. Budget how much you can afford per school for application fees. Then, start applying!

Are you nervous about applying for college?

Remember that you will likely need to submit an admissions essay or a cover letter explaining why you would be a good fit for that school. Write this essay carefully, and don’t rush it.

How was our guide to considering different colleges during your application process and search? Tell us how our guide helped you in the comments below.

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Jonathan is the VP Growth at TutorOcean. Jonathan previously worked at Klipfolio, Invest Ottawa, Irdeto and IBM. Jonathan is also the Co-Founder of STEAM Foundation who successfully launched a Kids Coding Camp helping inspire students early in their educational development. Jonathan is also an active startup advisor, giving back to help the next generation of entrepreneurs. Feel free to reach out on LinkedIn.

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