Home Away From Home

By LaShonda Sousa 

Calling all juniors and seniors! I have been lucky enough to find what I believe will be my home away from home for the four years that follow my graduation from high school next June. For those of you like me, who are planning on attending a university and living on campus your first year, the stress of choosing one school from thousands of possibilities can be exceptionally overwhelming. To help others make this life-changing decision, I have provided all the advice you will ever need to choose YOUR perfect school.  

The greatest way to narrow your college search is first to decide where you want to go to school. Choosing whether you want to stay within your home state or go across the country or even across the globe makes all the difference. You may also be astonished at the difference between the tuition fees that public universities charge to in-state students and out-of-state students. It’s an important consideration since the difference can amount to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars in student debt. Location is also important because of how close you may want to be to your family. If you are someone who would want to go home for holidays, weekends and just for a visit, being out of state is probably not a feasible option for you. Other people may be fine with going home just once or twice a year. After settling on a location, you must determine where you stand academically.  

Now it is time for the college to choose you. Your grade point average, ACT score, SAT score, class rank and even the size of your class are among the factors that colleges may use to rank you against your fellow students. Having a realistic understanding of what schools align with your academic track record is important. To get the best analysis of your high school performance you should get a transcript from your guidance office. If there is something you don’t completely understand about it, be sure to ask a knowledgeable adult. The transcript will address your GPA, rank and class size. To learn about your ACT and SAT scores go to CollegeBoard.org and access this information. College Board’s information about each school, including its offered majors, may be the most important thing to consider when you choose a school. Whether a school is a public or private university may also be important to you. All of these things should be considered as you begin to focus on what may be your next home.  

 When deciding on schools it is best to have multiple options and to apply to at least a few of them. Now that you have decided upon a location, are aware of your academic standpoint, and have narrowed your list of schools to a handful of choices, it is time to get down to the details. Looking at a school via the internet or brochure makes them all seem very similar, so in order to see the real difference, you must take tours! I know it can be hard for people to find time in a hectic schedule, but it is crucial that you get the feel for a particular college in person. I was under the impression that I had already determined what school I would go to before I had even toured it. After actually visiting the campus, I knew instantly that it was not the school for me and I had to reevaluate. Some factors that you may overlook when trying to determine where you want to go are public transportation, laundry, meal plans, on- and off-campus housing, organizations, Greek life and the appearance and walkability of the university. The best way to see these for yourself is to take a tour.  

Even though the road leading to college may be chaotic and stressful, the rewards are substantial. It is all worth it once you are where you want to be, so be sure to plan ahead. Start admissions as soon as possible because graduation comes way faster than it seems. Lastly, good luck with the college hunt! 

LaShonda Sousa is a senior at Gray’s Creek High School. She plans to attend UNC-Greensboro next year.