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Find the Best College Fit
By: Gen and Kelly Tanabe

Have you ever walked into a snooty boutique only to be ignored by the even snootier staff? Have you ever found yourself at a party where you don't know any of the guests? If so, then you know how uncomfortable it is to feel out of place. Unfortunately, this can also happen when choosing a college or university. No two schools are the same, and while one may make you feel at home, the other may make you feel like you just landed on an alien planet.

The key to picking the right school is to take the time to do some self-reflection. Many prospective students skip this step and jump ahead to picking a college based on the school's glossy brochure or website. But before you even look at schools, take a long, hard look at yourself and ask some serious questions about what you want. Not only will this greatly improve your odds of ending up at a school that's right for you, but it will also come in handy when you need to express these feelings in your applications and admission essays.
So let's take the first step to picking the perfect college by uncovering what you really want.

Figure out what you want.

When you were in high school you may have taken a career assessment test. This was the exam in which you used a number two pencil to bubble in page after page of questions about what you enjoy, your strengths and desires for the future. Then, depending on how long ago you went to school you either used the answers to sort through a bunch of index cards or simply waited a few days to receive the results by computer. In either case what you ended up with was a list of careers that supposedly fit your personality and talents. Based on the results, you were declared fit to become an accountant, attorney or even long-haul truck driver.

While these tests sometimes produced interesting answers, the idea behind them is sound. It's important to analyze your strengths, weaknesses and goals to figure out what you want out of college before you start applying to a bunch of schools. As you've grown older (and immensely wiser) you've probably realized that life is complicated and there are few cut and dry answers. Otherwise, we would all have followed the results of those career assessment tests, and some of us would be driving tractor-trailers instead of writing about college.

Take the "What I Want" test.

Our test to help you find the right college is not multiple-choice. At the end of the test we won't give you the names of three perfect colleges. Life is just not that simple. However, we do promise that by taking our test you will discover what you are looking for in a college and what aspects of a school are important to you. With a clearer understanding of what you want, it will be much easier to pick a school that satisfies your needs. So sharpen that figurative number two pencil and take our test to help you figure out what you want. And you thought you only have to take tests after you get into college!

Know your career goals.

How your education will enhance your career is one of the most important factors.

  • By going back to school, do you hope to advance in your current career or to change careers all together?

  • If getting more education will help you advance your current career, what specific knowledge and/or degrees do you need to get the promotion you desire?

  • If you are planning to enter a new career, what are your motivations for doing so, and how much education do you need to realistically get a job in this new field?

  • How will going back to school help you achieve either of these career goals?

  • For your career field, how much does the academic reputation of the college or university count?

  • What specific classes or subject areas must you take for your career objectives?

  • In order to achieve your career goals, is it necessary to receive a bachelor's or advanced degree, or do you just need to obtain certain skills or update your skills with a certificate program?

  • In talking to people already in your desired career, what recommendations do they have about the type of education required to be successful?

  • Is it important that your college be in an area where there are work opportunities such as internships related to your career?

  • Are you sure more education will help you achieve your desired career goals?

  • Where do you see yourself in your career in five years? Ten years?

About the Author

Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.

501 Ways for Adult Students to Pay for College

By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
Learn how to go back to school without going broke. This is the only book that shows you how to find the best scholarships for adult students, get your employer to pay, have your student loans forgiven and much more.

Learn More

Adult Students: A Painless Guide to Going Back to College

By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
Fulfill your dream of going back to school--painlessly! Whether you're going back to school for the first time, returning after an absence or advancing or changing your career, this book will help.

Learn More