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Sachem North High School

Choosing A College: Some Things To Consider


Choosing a college is a big decision.  The key is to remember that there is no such thing as a "perfect" school.  You will find many colleges and universities that match your preferences.  Explore your interests and take the time to find the college that is right for you.  The more you know about yourself and your goals, the easier it becomes to find the right fit.  Take some time to review the items below to help narrow down your options...

Items to evaluate when selecting a college:

  • Availability of majors - If you have selected a particular career path, it is important to choose a college that offers a major relevant to your plans.  Some careers require students to major in a particular specialization; for other careers, a variety of majors may be acceptable.  If you are unsure of what major to choose, you may want to select a school that gives you a number of options.  If you are between two or three possibilities, apply to schools that offer all of the ones you are considering, so that transferring may not be necessary if you change your mind. 
  • Do I want to stay home or go away? - Going away to college can be an extremely rewarding experience; however, it is not one to enter into lightly.  Think about whether or not you are ready for the freedom, as well as the challenges that going away presents.  Managing your life when you go away to school takes some practice.  Finding a balance between academics and social life is critical for success.  When faced with the tough choice of going out for the evening or finishing the research paper that is due the next morning, what will you choose? 
  • Distance from Home - If you decide that going away is right for you, you must also consider how far is too far.  Do you want to be within a few hours drive or are you comfortable hopping on a plane to get home?  Consider the costs involved with each, because these costs may dictate how often you get to come home for a visit.  Keep in mind that staying in New York does not necessarily mean you will be close to home.  Some colleges in upstate New York may involve a 10 hour drive, while many schools in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Massachusetts may actually be closer. 
  • Size of School - Do you prefer a small college, large university, or somewhere in between?  At a small school, class sizes are generally smaller.  Contact with your professors is usually more readily available.  When walking on campus, you are likely to be surrounded by familiar faces who know your name (and know whether or not you showed up for chemistry class earlier that day).   At a larger university, you may experience lecture style classes.  For some classes, questions may be directed to a graduate assistant rather than the actual professor due to the number of students in the class.  There may be a greater diversity of majors available at a larger school.  Perhaps you are interested in a large athletic program with the "big school" feel and the excitement of the football and basketball games.  Clubs and activities may abound at a large school, but leadership positions may be more competitive in the larger environment.  A medium sized school often provides a balance with characteristics representative of both large and small environments.  Sometimes the best way to figure out what is right for you is to visit campuses in each category and see what appeals to you. 
  • Campus Setting - Do you want to attend school in a city or urban environment rich with many cultural opportunities and things to do outside of campus?  Perhaps you enjoy the rolling hills and fresh air of a rural setting.  Or maybe you are looking for something similar to the area around Sachem, a more suburban community. 
  • Academic Compatibility - It is important to compare your academic profile as a student (ie. cumulative grade average, SAT/ACT scores) to that of the typical incoming freshman at the schools you plan to apply.  You can find this information online at or other similar web sites.  You can also log into Naviance Student, which offers historical data and graphs about how Sachem students have fared in the admissions process at many schools.  When choosing which colleges to apply to, it is important to select a balance of "reach," "target," and "safety" schools.  Reach schools are those where the academic profile of the typical incoming freshman is slightly more competitive than your academic profile.  A target school is a college where your academic profile aligns closely with that of the typical incoming student.  A safety school is one where your scores slightly exceed that of the typical incoming freshman at that school.  It is important to remember that, just as you are selecting colleges that are right for you, the colleges are also determining which applicants are well-suited for their school.  By applying to a well-balanced list of schools, you will likely end up with more options when you are ready to make your final decision.
  • Availability of Housing - This is an important consideration if you are planning to live on campus.  Is housing guaranteed for freshman?  Is it guaranteed for all four years of college?  What are the off-campus housing options if you decide to move off campus?  At some schools, freshman may be required to live on campus.  Also, you may want to discuss how the residence halls are designed:  single sex, co-ed, co-ed with male or female floors, suite style, etc.  How many students are assigned to a room?  Are single rooms available?  How many bathrooms are there per floor and are they single sex or co-ed?  Make sure to check out a residence hall when you visit campus.
  • Cost - Public colleges typically offer discounted tuition rates for students that reside within the state the school is located.  This is because part of the tuition at a public college is supported by taxes that help fund these educational opportunities.  Tuition at public colleges is often notably less than that of private colleges.  However, the availability of scholarships may be greater at a private college.  Once you receive your financial aid packages in the spring of your senior year, you will be able to evaluate the best educational value.  If finances are a concern, apply to a balance of both public and private colleges so that you have viable options financially, as well as academically. 
  • Diversity - There are many types of diversity to consider.  Beyond the ethnic and racial diversity on campus, students who practice different religions or come from different socio-economic backgrounds offer different perspectives and outlooks.  Also, students from different regions of the United States or even other countries can contribute to campus diversity.  When visiting or researching a campus, consider the impact that diversity has on the learning environment.
  • Athletics - If you plan to play a sport in college, remember that only a very small percentage of athletes go on to play professional sports.  Choose a school not only for the athletic program, but also for the academic preparedness it can provide for your future.  Speak with your high school coach about the collegiate level they anticipate you being most suited for.  Contact the college coach to discuss your anticipated role on the team (Be aware that you must comply with the NCAA's guidelines for athletic eligibility and recruiting, since there are rules and regulations governing the recruiting process).  Spend time with your prospective teammates at the college to see how you fit in with the group.  Remember that most college athletes do not receive a full scholarship to attend college, so plan accordingly.  

These are just some things to consider.  It is important to visit the campuses that you are seriously considering.   This will help you get a feel for the school, give you the opportunity to ask questions, and see whether you can envision yourself as a student there.  Be aware that many colleges take note of the amount of contact you have had with the school and may use that information to measure your level of interest in their college.  You showing interest in them tells the college that you are a serious candidate who is more likely to enroll at their school.  So, if you can manage it, get out there and check things out firsthand.