As a high school student, trying to decide when and how to begin your college search can be intimidating to say the least. Should you attend a large state university or small private college? What program should you major in?
If you’re a Christian, the decision becomes even more complex. Should you attend a secular college or a private Christian college? Which denomination of college should you attend? The list goes on.
We’d like to share our guidelines to help you narrow down and select the right Christian College for you.
Step 1. CREATE A COLLEGE SHOPPING LIST
EXPLORE Start reading the bright, colorful brochures that have likely begun arriving in the mail from colleges and universities you’ve never even heard of. Search online and compare different Christian colleges and universities.
RESEARCH Most Christian institutions operate as liberal arts colleges with programs that correlate with the school’s core values. Many offer a variety of degrees from ministry to business management. Try to keep your initial shopping list under 20 colleges.
Step 2. SEEK GUIDANCE
First and foremost, make sure you are praying and asking God to guide you in this significant time in your life. Enlist your pastor, church members, and friends and family to lift you up in prayer as you will soon be facing some of the most important decisions in your life.
Next, talk to your high school’s guidance counselor. This is a person you will want to establish a good relationship with from now on until you graduate. Your guidance counselor will help to make sure you are on the right track to graduate on time, that you’ll meet your post-graduation goals and that you’re picking the right high school classes to meet your interests and prepare you for college. He or she will also be a valuable resource in helping you begin the application process to the schools on your list. They will advise you about admission requirements and financial aid to the colleges on your list, and can help you search for national and public scholarships above and beyond what is offered at the schools on your list.
Make sure you keep an open communication line with your parents too. Whether they will be helping you pay for tuition or helping you fill out your FAFSA, your parents are going to be a valuable resource in helping you pick which colleges and universities you will apply to.
Step 3. NARROW DOWN THE LIST & APPLY
Once you’ve gotten to this stage in your search, you’ve probably begun to do some deeper research on the colleges on your shopping list. You will naturally be able to start narrowing down your choices once you’ve looked into factors such as size, location, cost, and majors offered, as well as selectivity level and standards for admission.
If some of the colleges are within driving distance, schedule a private tour or attend their College Preview Day (Oak Hills' Fall Preview Day is October 21st, 2016). Pay attention to the “campus culture” and the interactions between the students you see. If you aren’t close to any of the colleges on your list, some offer virtual online tours, maps or photo galleries to help you get a visual concept of the campus.
Most guidance counselors recommend applying to between five and eight colleges. If you’ve done your research, any more than eight can be a waste of your time. As a rule, plan to apply to 1-2 colleges that you are pretty certain you will be accepted to, 2-4 colleges that you think it’s possible that you’ll be accepted, and 1-2 colleges that you think might be a stretch.
Your guidance counselor can help you get your transcripts and any other materials you’ll need to include in with your application package. Then be ready to play the waiting game.
Step 4. SCHEDULE ONE LAST VISIT AND ASK QUESTIONS
Once you know which schools you’ve been accepted to, plan to schedule a formal visit to your top campuses if possible. Plan to bring 10-15 detailed questions that you may have forgotten to ask in your initial visit or research. If the schools are far away, call a member of the admissions staff to discuss your questions.
If you’re still torn between two or three (or more!) schools, compare financial aid packages and scholarships between each college. Differentiate between what is awarded (scholarships and grants) and what you’ll need to pay back (loans).
Step 5. DECIDE!
Spend a few days praying, talking to your guidance counselor, teachers, friends and family if you’re still having a difficult time deciding. But don’t delay the decision. Once you’ve determined the Christian college that is right for you, be sure to contact the other schools to let them know you will not be attending. Good luck and happy hunting!
There are many factors to consider when choosing a college.
Download our "5 Things To Consider When Choosing A College" worksheet, and create your own college shopping list!