Yesterday as I went through a stack of mail from colleges, I split it into two piles: open and recycle. After the novelty of getting mail from schools all over the country wore off at some point last year, I adopted this system. How do I determine what goes in which pile? It’s actually quite simple. Location. If the school wasn’t in or near my general zone of interest, there was no point in opening their mail.
Searching for colleges can be confusing, and you may not know where to start! There’s a lot of information out there, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. This is what I keep in mind when looking at colleges to help narrow my choices and see if the school is right for me, at least on paper.
Urban vs. Rural, College Town vs. Big City
Location is important for a few reasons. Do you want to be in the city or a college town? This can help determine your pace of life, and is super important to think about. What are the perks of city living? How rural are you willing to go? If you’re planning to work in college, are there job opportunities nearby? The amount of green space on a campus is usually related to how spread out campus is. Convenience is also a big part of this, if you need routine medical attention, is there an adequate hospital nearby? This is important if you rely on infusions or find yourself admitted on a regular basis, you want to make sure that you are in good hands at a reputable institute.
Distance from Home
Another part of location is distance from home. I have a good friend whose mother gave her a map of the United States with a bunch of circles on it. She said that she had marked where they had family, and that my friend could look at schools within a three hour radius (roughly represented by the circles) of those locations. That way if she couldn’t make it home for break or if she had an emergency, she could easily be with family, and they could easily get to her. My family adopted this three hour philosophy and it greatly aided my college search. My search was also narrowed by the fact that every couple months or so I’m going to have to make the trip home for appointments, as I have doctors here who cannot be replaced.
Part of location is weather, do you prefer hot or cold? If you can’t stand winter and despise snow, New England probably isn’t for you. If you suffer from heat intolerance, don’t make life harder on yourself by going to school in the deep south. If you want to get a real idea of what it will be like if you went to a certain school, add the location to your weather app. You’ll get an idea of how the climate differs from where you live, and be able to judge with more certainty if that’s a good place for you.
Time of visit is also helpful in determining if the climate is right for you; I visited Penn State in January and it happened to be -11 Fahrenheit. That was enough for me to knock it off my list of potential schools (sorry dad, but now I understand how you can wear shorts and flip flops all winter without a problem). While I’m not opposed to snow and cold weather, – it will almost inevitably get into the teens at some point over the winter where I live – the negative teens was just a bit (read: wayyyyyyy) too cold. A professor telling us that the coldest it’s been while he’s taught at Penn State was -29 Fahrenheit just sealed the deal.
By thinking of these three things, I have been able to greatly narrow my college search, and figure out what it is I really want in a location. Do you know someone overwhelmed by mail sent by universities from all over the country? Are they unsure of how to start? Share this with them! Don’t forget to subscribe to our emails for more on the college process, and my spoonie adventures.