How to pick a college
Five tips to help make the big decision about where to study at college or university.
So, you are applying to college. YAY. This is a mixture of the most exciting, the most overwhelming, the most confusing, and the most nerve-racking feelings. Yay?
But no need to fear, you will end up right where you need to be and right where God has intended you to be. I do not have all the answers, but I do have some tips on applying to college, just from the perspective of someone who has gone through the process before, and thoroughly enjoys the college that they are at!
1. Tour the campus
Initially I had no interest in going to Biola at all. My parents went there and met in their first class on the first day of school, and because of that, it feels like people have been telling me that I was going to go there my entire life. And not one part of me wanted to go.
When junior year of high school came along, my family and I decided to go on a college visitation trip. I threw Biola into the list just to appease to my parents, and honestly did not want to tour. However, everything changed the moment I stepped onto the Biola campus and actually saw it for what it was. During that week of high school, I toured five different colleges, and it really gives tangible thought to the decision.
So, my advice is to TOUR THE CAMPUS. Some of the colleges that I thought I would love just based upon their websites or Instagrams felt completely different when I actually went to the campus and experienced it physically for myself. And some of the colleges that I thought I would never want to attend, I absolutely loved the campus when I was able to see it for myself and experience it. That is what happened to me with Biola!
Touring the campus allows you to get a small glimpse of what life would be like at the school, as well as seeing the highlights of the school and what makes this college different than others. You get to see student life and visit places that you may have class, hang out, or study. As cheesy as this statement is, you will begin to picture yourself at a college and as an enrolled student once you tour a campus you truly love. What made Biola different for me was that it was the first place I could picture myself, and that only came from touring it. And so if you have the opportunity to tour colleges, DO IT. I guarantee it will help you solidify your options.
2. Talk to a counselor
I highly suggest scheduling a meeting with your admissions counselor and talking with them in person! A great time to do this would be after you tour a campus, but if you are unable to do that, even just calling over the phone would be extremely beneficial to you!
Immediately after my tour of Biola, I met with my admissions counselor, and that meeting changed everything for my family and me! The information you receive while talking to an admissions counselor is a lot more personal as we were able to talk specifically about my major and why I was interested in that, what academic scholarships I could qualify for, and what life would be like for me personally at that school. Talking with my admissions counselor alleviated a lot of stress, and it also allowed me to have a personal contact with someone throughout the application process who you feel comfortable talking to and who knows you.
Speaking with a guidance counselor helps you receive more personalized information than you might have on a tour, as well as creates a contact point for you. I am so thankful that I set up a meeting with my Biola admissions counselor almost four years ago. We still get coffee and catch up till this day! He constantly encouraged me during the process of figuring out where I was going to go to college, and he was someone who really cared for me and was on my side. Your admissions counselors are on your side, they are on your team, go talk to them!
3. Talk to students
Whether it’s someone who you know from home, your mom’s friend’s daughter from ages ago, a student on a tour, or a student over the phone, talking to a current or a former student of a college you are interested in really helps! Students can provide a personal example of what life is like at that college, especially showing what they are currently involved in and how that looks like for them. Talking with students can provide you a place to ask those honest questions you may not want to ask in front of a tour or with your admissions counselor. Talking with current students also allows you to speak to someone who can relate to you, as they just went through this application process not too long ago.
When I was deciding on Biola, I talked to everybody I could have. I talked with students who I knew from back home who were currently at Biola, as well as former students; they answered so many of my questions, as well as told me stories about their life at Biola which made me want to be a part of it. People want to share about their experiences, so just ask! If you ever have any questions about Biola or just want someone to reach out to, I would love to be there for you!
4. Stay away day
Many students, particularly in the US, move away from home for college. So you probably want a taste of the campus as if you were really living there, right? You want to know what it would feel like to live in a dorm, go to the cafeteria, have a communal bathroom (see if you would even like that), see other people in your halls, and attend some classes. Then go on a stay away weekend! A lot of colleges have stay away weekends where you can experience life as a student alongside current students.
I know for Biola, there is University Day happening in November which is a stay-away night, as well as Biola Bounds throughout the year where you stay at Biola for a whole weekend, and they even take you to Disneyland! Stay away weekends allows you to receive the fullest experience a prospective student can have.
I went on a Biola Bound my senior year of high school, and it was honestly one of my favorite weekends ever. I was able to stay in a dorm, join other Biolans on their late night food runs, and really see and be a part of the Biola lifestyle for myself! I was able to meet current Biola students who I still connect with to this day, and I was able to meet other students who I was able to relate to and talk through the application process.
Above all, the college decision season can be stressful. You do not know where you will end up, but God knows. And He’s got it. Pray for guidance, pray for peace, and pray for assurance. He is truly the greatest comfort through all of this, and He’s got you. And know there are others who are praying for you, like me.
I hope this gave you some hope during this time. Above all, YOU GOT THIS. You are worthy and capable.
Written by Anna Gustafson from Biola University.