There are over 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States, and figuring out which ones you might want to consider attending can seem a daunting task. You can’t apply to all of them, much less find the time to visit and tour thousands of schools. I’m here to help you figure out how to break it down in order to create your personalized college list.
This is the second installment in Narrowing Your Search, a four-part mini-series in which I’ll dive into different things to consider while choosing which institutions to apply to. I’ll talk about location, academics, housing, and extracurriculars. In this installment, I’ll talk about big-picture factors, such as size and location.
Do you like the hustle and bustle of big-city life? Or would you rather live in a quiet college town? When it comes to location, there’s lots to consider. Colleges will have opportunities that reflect their environments. For example, if you want to do STEM research, it might be helpful if your school is located next to a hospital or medical research facility. Meanwhile, a school that isn’t located in a big city might be useful for hands-on experience in areas such as agriculture.
Some colleges have their own campuses, and in these institutions, it is very clear when you’re on school grounds. The school might have a gate around it, or otherwise be in one centralized location. Contrarily, some campuses are more integrated into the city in which they are located; you might have to walk a block or two to get from class to class in a school like that.
I knew that I wanted a school that had a campus of some sort but wasn’t too far from a city. UChicago doesn’t have a closed campus, but the main quad serves as a central location for most classes and activities. In addition, it’s only seven miles away from downtown Chicago, so if I ever feel like exploring that big-city life, it isn’t too far away.
When it comes to class size, there’s a huge range of options out there. Public colleges tend to be bigger (although this is not always the case), sometimes with tens of thousands of students. Meanwhile, a private liberal arts college could be much smaller, perhaps with only a couple hundred students. (Wondering what “liberal arts” means? Don’t worry, I’ll get to that in the “academics” installment of this series!) Try to think about the college experience you are envisioning. Are you looking forward to loud sports games where everyone is donning school colors and chanting the school fight song? A larger student body often means more school spirit and more resources. On the other hand, smaller schools might feel more close-knit and can offer more personalized attention.
Keep in mind that while many public colleges are named “University of City or State,” this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule (the University of Chicago, while named with this convention, is a private school!).
These are just a few factors to consider when narrowing your college search. Stay tuned to learn about what to consider when looking academics, housing, and extracurriculars!