10/27/2011 09:40 am ET | Updated Dec 27, 2011

Student's Criteria for College is More Important than College's Criteria for Students

The majority of high school students have rigorously memorized and practiced what it takes to be accepted into college. After all, that's what the four years of high school are for: to get involved in extracurricular clubs and sports, maintain a high GPA, score well on the SAT and ACT, and develop something special -- a unique quality, of sorts -- that makes you stand out from the rest of the applicants. What the majority of high school students don't always consider, however, is their own criteria for the colleges they apply to and will one day potentially attend. While students need to be aware of achieving high test scores and increasing their GPA, they should also develop standards of their own to know if they are choosing the right school for themselves.

Every student is unique and has his or her own idea of what a "dream school" entails. For me, this means a school in a big city as well as a high standard of academics. Since I grew up in a small town with only two main attractions -- shopping malls and the beach -- I would love to go to school in a big city with plenty of things to do. Whether it's going to cheap restaurants with friends or seeing a Broadway musical, I would be entertained. I'm currently working incredibly hard in high school to be able to attend my dream school, and my grades are one of the best things about my application, so going to a school that is known for its rigor and academics is my main priority, but it's not necessarily everyone else's priority.

I can't help but wonder, how do I really know if a school is right for me? How do other high school students know? According to College Board, students should visit their college of choice before deciding to attend. Brochures and websites can be informative, but they can't tell you how you'll respond to the campus. For example, I think that I'd love the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but I've never even been there. I could have my heart set on going there, but once I see it, I may not feel like it's a right fit -- you never know until you check it out for yourself.

In an effort to ease my own curiosity and also help other intrigued students make an educated decision about which college or university to attend, I spoke with a few college students to see what they like best about where they go to school.

  • Freshman Georgia Price attends Florida Gulf Coast University and plays for the Women's Golf Team. She is majoring in communications with a minor in Spanish and says her favorite part about the school is how new the campus is and the small size. Chazmen McCarter also attends FGCU and claims that he "...loves how small my campus and classes are, it makes learning a lot better." Remember, big schools aren't always better for everyone! Even though a school may be small, it may be a better learning environment for you!
  • Alexandra Voelmle, a theater major also studying at University of Central Florida, remarks, "...the campus is beautiful, and there are so many resources for internships or work study. Also school spirit and tailgating are awesome!" Internships are something some students don't consider when choosing a school. A benefit of going to school in a city is having that opportunity, which will help you when you graduate and need a job.
  • Allison Golom, a sophomore at University of Michigan, says her favorite part about school is the football and the weather. She also says, "I would say the students and the faculty is a good thing to look at. The cost is also a huge factor in picking your schools, and how much you will have to take out in loans."

Hopefully these words from students will provide some insight as to what to look for when the time comes to apply to college: do you want to go to a smaller, newer school or a more historic school with a large population of students? Is having a football team and school spirit important to you? It seemed pretty important to these specific students, but it's not for everyone. Or maybe the academics and course selection are the most important components to you. There are over 2,000 colleges the Unites States, so decide what you want in a school, and start looking! I'm sure one out of 2,000 will work for you!