Written by Dr. Steve Whitaker, Head of School
These are both exciting and anxious days for seniors. As they sort through their many options, you will hear them express concern about picking the “right” college prior to graduation. As the parent of two TFA graduates, I can tell you that we were blessed to have the school walk alongside us each step of the way and provide Godly wisdom as these important decisions were made.
Joyce Kwak, Director of College Guidance, says it’s never too early to start thinking about, and having fun with, the college application process. It’s an opportunity for our students to exercise their faith in God. As students search for the right school, their preferences and choices will shift. However, the are several things that Joyce and her team say we should always consider when making the final college selection.
- Major: College freshmen are typically not required to declare a major prior to attending. However, it is helpful to know the general area of studies that you would be interested in to make sure the college offers that program. For example, a student who is deliberating between a biology major and a music major should consider a college that offers both programs!
- Location: Obviously academics are the top priority when it comes to choosing the college, but location can be just as important. Do you prefer having the Florida sunshine year-round or do you prefer experiencing the four seasons? Is the college town atmosphere more appealing to you, or is a busy city like Manhattan? It would be most helpful to think about where you grew up and how much change you really want!
- Cost: College can be expensive. Tuition is only a portion of the overall cost, so you should always compare colleges by the Cost of Attendance. There are colleges that will offer more merit scholarships, institutional grants, etc., so compare colleges wisely! Student Loans should not be taken lightly, but they are a great investment for your future collegiate education. Do research and be cautious about the amount of debt that could potentially follow you as a college graduate.
- Extracurricular/Community: This can make or break the entire college experience for students! Choose a college that offers clubs, organizations, and groups that you are interested in pursuing or continuing. These can include community service project options, special hobby/interest groups, cooking clubs, Star Wars clubs, Diversity & Ethics groups, and more. A college with a thriving campus ministry will always be a great opportunity, but students will need to proactively seek to find their niche.
- Size: 2,000 vs 20,000, big or small, considering the “size” of the college will all vary in perspectives of the individuals. Size of the college campus can directly impact the college’s academic offerings, to the college campus’ social climate. A large university may offer hundreds of major opportunities, but students will need to be more independent and proactive in getting to know the faculty and staff. At a smaller institution, receiving advisory support will be more accessible and the faculty easier to connect with. Students generally understand whether they thrive with accountability of faculty/staff, or if it is unnecessary for them to be successful.
- “Fit”: Just like a pair of jeans fits you perfectly based on the brand and the cut/style (and the right price tag!), every college has a “fit” based on your needs and comfort! There is no college that is “one size fits all.” Your best friend’s older sister may have had the BEST experience at College ABC, but that’s not a guarantee that you will as well. Just as students vary in their interests and academic needs and wants, colleges will be the same. Always search for the place that is the right “fit” for you!
- “Gut? God?”: When students visit a college campus, they just know that the place is not “it” for them or vise versa. Nothing beats the gut feeling you have about a college, not even your friend’s opinions. You are entering the most formative years of your life – choose a place that you know God is leading you to!
During the college selection process, always remember to be comforted by the knowledge that God is in full control. If it doesn’t work out with a college you have always thought to be a great place for you, this will also mean that God has the most perfect place just for you. Stay committed and faithful to His plans and enjoy entering into this new chapter of your life.
You can learn more about college selection with these valuable resources: