Finding the Right School

With nearly 3,600 colleges and universities nationwide and over 30 in Hawaii alone, it can be confusing to figure out which schools to apply for. It may even be more difficult to pick just one to attend. With so many options, how do you select a school that fits you? Do you want to attend a public or private school? How about a two- or four-year college or vocational or technical school? Do you want to attend a local or mainland colleges? Consider these three steps in your search for answers.

1. Evaluate Yourself

What kind of school could be a healthy and happy place for you to learn? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you learn better in smaller or larger classes?
  • Do you prefer lectures, group discussions, research, or hands-on (job-related) learning?
  • Are you an independent, open-ended learner, or do you like structure and well-defined guidelines?
  • What are your favorite course subjects? What type of classes should you take to prepare for your career goals?
  • Do you plan to pursue grad school?
  • Would you like to visit another country and Study Abroad?
  • Do you want to take a wide variety of classes? Or would you like to be able to just focus on your specific interests?
  • Are there certain teachers or faculty you would like to work with?
  • How much interaction do you want with your instructors?
Social Life & Extracurricular Activities
In order to perform well academically, you must also be happy with others aspects of your life involving your social and extracurricular activities. College should be about more than just academics, so consider the following:
  • Do you want to make lots of new friends? Or be in a place where you already have friends and a social network?
  • How important is it for you to be on a culturally or ethnically diverse campus? Do you want to meet people from other parts of the United States or from other countries?
  • Are you active in your church and do you want to continue your religious practice while in college? Be sure to find out if there will be a supportive faith community for you on campus or nearby.
Campus Community & Environment
College will be a formative and memorable time in your life. Be sure to identify a school that will be provide a supportive environment for you.
  • What kinds of financial aid resources and guidance will you need?
  • Would you feel more comfortable in a small cozy community, or does a big campus and large student body excite you?
  • Are you a city-person or country-person?
  • Do you want to be close to home so you can visit family, or would you like to try living away from home and experience being independent?
  • Are you planning to live on or off campus?
  • What kind of campus resources would be especially helpful for you?
  • Do you like to be warm or cold?
  • How about trying a place with snow? Or would you want to stay close to the ocean?

2. Investigate Institutions of Higher Education

Once you’ve established a better idea of what a happy and healthy place to learn looks like for you, it’s time to do some research! Here are some ways to learn about different schools, colleges and universities:
  • Visit your college & career counselor and resource center. Explore the resources available at your school.
  • Talk with adults in your family and community who are college graduates. Find out about their college experiences.
  • Contact different schools that look interesting and request that they mail informational materials to your home.
  • Attend college fairs to talk with alumni and school representatives.
  • Visit college campuses when you have the opportunity. Check out campuses near you. And if your family goes on a trip away from home, schedule some time to tour nearby college campuses.

3. Choosing Colleges That Fit

After you’ve discovered different college options, identify a group of schools that fit your needs. Although you will want to narrow your search, remember not to limit yourself. Apply to several schools,including at least one reliable “safety-net” school and one realistic“dream school.” Don’t be afraid to aim high!
And finally, after taking these thoughtful and responsible steps to finding a college match, you’ll hopefully have a good range of final options to choose from. Of course, you'll want to consider financial aid offers and talk to your parents and family before making your final decision. But remember the most important thing – make sure to pick a college that fits YOU!