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ECMC Foundation Gives Tips on Choosing the Right College

April 28, 2017

Leading up to College Signing Day, a tradition started by Former First Lady Michelle Obama and now continuing under Better Make Room, our team shared advice on important factors that students should consider when selecting the right college for them.

From academics, campus location, affordability, among other topics, each person shared his or her own nugget of wisdom. Tips were showcased on the ECMC Foundation Twitter and Facebook accounts (@ecmcfoundation). This article is compilation of those reflections.

Jenny Power

Majors/Field of Study: Have you decided your major? If not, does your college have a number of programs you want to explore?

Jennifer Power, University of California-Berkeley, Class of '09:

"Entering college undecided on my major, it was important to be in an environment that provided many avenues for exploration and study. At Cal, I had the opportunity to take a wide range of classes in different fields before finding the major that was right for me."

Affordability: Can you afford the college you're considering? Are there scholarship opportunities that you can tap into?

Angela Sanchez, University of California-Los Angeles, Class of '13:

"I didn't think I could afford UCLA, but financial aid & scholarships changed that. I applied to the FAFSA & won enough scholarships from community organizations for my first year and also qualified for renewable aid the following years. If I could figure out freshman year, I could tackle the next 3!"

Angela Sanchez
Kyle Miller

School Size: How big is the school you're considering, and how will this impact your learning and social environments?

Kyle Miller, Skidmore College, Class of '81:

"The size of my college was important to me because all the schools I attended K-12 were small. I chose a small college because I thought it would be a better experience for me. Thinking about the size of a college or university is one variable worth considering."

Academics: Will your school's academic programs prepare you for your desired career?

Patrick Bourke, Oberlin College, Class of '11:

"I wanted to attend a college where I could work on my writing, and I knew Oberlin offered a rigorous curriculum with faculty that could help me grow in this area. This reason coupled with my belief that this was an institution that developed progressive thought and encouraged social movements solidified my decision to attend Oberlin."

Patrick Bourke
Jennifer Zeisler

Academics and Career Services: What types of services does the college offer? And how will they help you achieve your academic and career goals?

Jennifer Zeisler, Old Dominion University, Class '02:

"I looked for a college that valued internship experience and supported students in finding and securing off campus opportunities. It was important to me to acquire real-life experience that would complement my degree and give me skills that would help me get a job after graduation."

Campus Location: The location of your college campus matters. Do you want to be in or close to a major city? Or would you prefer a more low-key neighborhood?

Sarah Belnick, University of Michigan, Class of '07:

"Coming from a large city like Los Angeles, I knew I wanted to attend a university that was located in a smaller town. It was important to me to be able to walk everywhere I wanted to go- both on and off campus- since I knew I would not have a car during college. I loved the way that the residents of Ann Arbor took pride in their local school."

Sarah Belnick
Mai P. Tran

Accessibility to Life Outside Campus: Will you need a car to get off campus? If you don't plan to bring a car, is there reliable public transportation around your school?

Mai P. Tran, University of California-Berkeley, Class of '08:

"Efficient public transportation was important to me, especially because I didn't own a car. Luckily Berkeley's campus is connected to the San Francisco Bay Area's bus and BART regional rail systems. This allowed me to do simple things, like grocery shopping; and to travel to neighboring cities for my internship, and of course to explore."

Distance from Home: Being away from home can be exciting for some students, but let's face it: how far is too far from home sweet home?

Kyle Miller, Skidmore College, Class of '81:

"If you have the opportunity to consider whether to go away to college, there are so many factors to think through. First and foremost, how far away is far? Would you bicycle, drive, take the bus, the train or catch a plane? Knowing how you would get there will help you decide how far away is far."

Kyle Miller
Jennifer Zeisler

Extracurricular Activities: Are there opportunities to become involved with student clubs and organizations related to your interests?

Jennifer Zeisler, Old Dominion University, Class '02:

"One of the things I considered when selecting a college were the opportunities I would have to be engaged in the campus community outside the classroom. I was involved in a variety of extracurricular activities in high school – from sports to band to service organizations – and wanted to have the same opportunities in college."

Athletics: How important is college sports to you?

Jessica Haselton, University of Michigan, Class of '07:

"Coming from a small high school, I really wanted a quintessential college experience. It was important to me to find a school that had a lot of spirit, pride and energy. Some of my favorite memories from the University of Michigan were walking to the Big House amongst a sea of students dressed in maize and blue for Saturday football games to cheer on the Michigan Wolverines. Go Blue!"

Jessica Haselton
Maggie Snyder

Campus Living: Do you want to live on or off campus? Does your school allow students to choose?

Maggie Snyder, Denison University, Class of '11:

"I chose a small liberal arts college that required students to live on campus. On-campus living fosters community engagement and encouraged me to get involved in student organizations and make new friends!"

Food: Can you cook? Or will you be relying on the school cafeteria? If the latter, how is the quality of the food?

Peter J. Taylor, University of California-Los Angeles, Class of '80:

"Food wasn't a big consideration in making my college decision, although I often lamented how bad it was back when I was in school. One of my daughters recently graduated from UCLA, and things have certainly changed! I am envious at how great the offerings have now become at their college cafeteria. So many options, and more healthy too. But it no doubt requires discipline if you are going to avoid the Freshman 15!"

Peter Taylor

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