Rising seniors: finding your ideal college

COLLEGES AROUND THE COUNTRY: With thousands of colleges to choose from, it is crucial to begin considering where you would like to attend. (Bishop Montgomery High School)

Carly Altman | Writer

February 29, 2024

2nd semester of junior year is often deemed one of the most stressful periods of high school for students. Between rigorous classes, extracurriculars, AP and IB tests, the SAT and ACT, and the looming thought of college in the not-too-distant future, many students become overwhelmed with the expectations of creating a “perfect” application to be admitted into the “perfect” college. However, many students falsely correlate a “perfect” college with simply a prestigious university, considering only the acceptance rate when choosing where to apply. So many other factors are involved in finding the perfect college for you, and they are crucial to consider to find your ideal college.


When choosing where you would like to apply, it is vital to go beyond the campus and consider the general location surrounding it. The location of your college will become a massive aspect of your life, as you will spend four years living there. Look into off-campus activities and the culture and atmosphere of surrounding cities. 

UC AND CSU schools are great local options for those hoping to stay close to home. (Oak Park Unified School District)

“For college, being in a location where I am able to surf is really important to me,” explained junior Lauren Rosen. “It’s one of my favorite things to do, and my life wouldn’t be the same without it.”

It’s also important to consider if you would prefer to be close to home, travel across the country, or even out of the United States. The best way to get a feel for the location of a college is to engage in college visits or tours, allowing you to gain a stronger understanding of the ambiance of college campuses and their surroundings.


If you already have an idea of what you would like to study in college, it is key to consider the majors and minors that are offered at colleges you are interested in. Your “perfect” school is only perfect if it provides the opportunity for you to study what you are passionate about. If you are unsure what you would like to focus on in college, ensure that colleges you are considering offer programs for undecided majors, allowing you to study and gain perspective on a variety of different fields. The academic majors and minors offered are some of the most critical aspects of finding your ideal college, as they shape the trajectory of your college experience and life beyond higher education.

School Size

The size of a university has a major impact on individual learning and social aspects of a school. School size is often a big influence on the campus atmosphere, creating vastly different environments. A large college often has larger class sizes, a bigger social scene, a large variety of majors, and a greater student-to-faculty population. Comparatively, a small college has a more intimate atmosphere, smaller class sizes, and allows for more personal connections with professors and faculty. Identifying if you would prefer a large school, a small school, or something in between is a crucial factor in discovering your ideal college.

Campus Life

Campus life outside of academics is central to your personal identity and well-being in college. The community and social scene of a college become vital aspects of your life outside of school. It is important to consider what activities you hope to engage in, such as sports, Greek life, clubs, and other extracurriculars. Look into schools that offer opportunities that you are interested in and correlate with your ideal lifestyle. 

“Finding a school with interesting and unique activities is definitely important,” expressed junior Madelyn Mitchell, “Outside of academics, college is a great opportunity to meet new people and expand your interests.” 


While it may seem unnecessary to consider weather as a factor when applying for colleges, it is truly a significant factor in your daily life. If you have a strong preference for warm, sunny weather, you may want to consider applying for schools in locations that maintain warmer temperatures throughout winter and spring. If you prefer colder weather, consider colleges that are further north or locations that see more snow or rain. Living in a location that does not align with your weather preferences can have a major impact on your personal well-being and motivation.


The unfortunate reality of higher education is the extremely high costs of tuition and housing. If you are looking for a lower-cost university, consider public schools or in-state universities. These colleges often offer lower tuition fees and still offer high-level education. If cost is not an important aspect for you, out-of-state and private universities can also be considered. If you hope to attend a university that has higher tuition costs, yet you cannot meet the financial expectations, look into schools that offer scholarships and financial aid for students. In addition to tuition costs, it is to look into the price of living and housing. Living costs in big cities are often higher than in small towns and add a significant amount to the cost of your college experience. 

When searching for the ideal college for you, it is vital to look for a university that will foster academic, personal, and social growth, as well as meet your expectations and needs. To ensure your happiness and success in higher education, it is crucial to consider factors far beyond prestige, and to ultimately look for an environment that will promote growth in all aspects of your life.

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