Ask An Expert: Tips On Starting The College Search

Ask An Expert: Tips On Starting The College Search
Choosing a college can be an exciting, yet stressful time in any aspiring academic’s life. There are so many things to keep in mind: finances, distance from home (not too close, but not too far either), school size and a plethora of other things. Add to this the fact that oftentimes the person who enters a college is not the same person who leaves it, and well, what’s a person to do in making such a big decision in life? Here to help is Roberto Bustamante, a former adjunct professor at a four-year university who has helped students realize their potential and strive for more out of life. Here are five tips he has for you on finding the right college.
Roberto Bustamante
Adjunct Professor
Azusa Pacific University

For over 10 years, Roberto Bustamante has served as an adjunct professor in higher education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels of education. Though he loves the rigors of academia found in teaching graduate level courses, he still prefers the youth and vitality of undergrad students and would much rather grab a cup of coffee with them and listen to their stories. Listening is always a key point in coming to understand the plight we find ourselves in, and as he has listened to countless stories over the years, he now has some advice for those seeking direction in this next stage of life. Here are five words of advice he has for those considering what college to attend in the fall.


“Wait, what? Aren’t you going to be doing enough of that when you get to college? Now you’re asking me to study even more? Well, in a word, yes. What is it that you are looking for in life? What do you want to do? Of course, these are questions you may not necessarily have the answers to right now. And even if you do, chances are those answers will change over time. But you still have a certain sense, an idea. You probably know that you are more of a liberal arts person rather than physical sciences. If that’s the case, then choose a school that has a strong program in the area you will be studying. Study your potential schools and rank them in order according to your study preferences.”


“Put some miles into this decision by visiting some, if not all, of your prospective schools. Go ahead, jump in your parents’ car or take a flight and go visit the campuses. Take the tour and get a feel for what life is like at your potential school. Remember, there is much more to your academic career than just academics. You’re in the academy of life, and thus you are going to learn from the environment you are in. Are you comfortable at your chosen school? Do you stand for or tolerate the same ideals your school does? I taught at a school that had a very specific stance on certain issues, and there were some students who came to the school thinking they could change all of that. They spent more time uncomfortable with school policies and positions than they did actually learning in the classroom. Thus an aspect (academia) of their learning experience was hampered. So before you make any decisions, put some mileage on that car and go visit those schools. Stay there, in the dorms, and get a feel for it. If you contact the school ahead of time, oftentimes it will set you up with a current student who will: 1) allow you to stay with them in their dormitory, and 2) show you around their classes and campus.”


“Take time to assess with your parents or guardians your overall goals and objectives. You may have your heart set on an out-of-state school. However, prices for out-of-state tuition can be exorbitant, to say the least. Take time to look into different potential scholarships and financial aid options that your respective universities may offer you. This can be a make or break factor in terms of what school you attend. In addition, consider the possibility of attending a junior college first and getting your general electives out of the way. This can be a very good economical means of attending post-secondary education. At one time, junior college was the ugly step-child of post-secondary education, but this is no longer the case. There are many fine institutions that offer associate degrees and better yet, have honors programs that serve as feeders into the local, major university. Take a look at your Junior College and see what programs they may offer to help you attain academic glory!”

Related: Financial Aid Makes College Affordable for You


“‘You’ve got to risk it to get the biscuit,’ so says a line from one of my favorite ‘guilty-pleasure’ movies. But it’s true. There is a certain amount of risk that is involved in deciding what college to attend. You may question whether your preferred school is too far away from home, or simply outside of your comfort zone. Perhaps you’re wondering if you’ll even fit in. But remember, college is a time of personal formation. You are learning who you are during these years. So why not start by taking a certain amount of calculated risk. Afraid the school is too far? Well, maybe you need to get out of that comfort zone called home and spread your wings to fly. You’ll never know unless you take that risk. Perhaps you question whether you will be successful in college at all. Well, again, you’ll never know until you take that risk. What’s the worst that can happen? You can take a risk, you can step out of your comfort zone and you can live and learn. Take the risk because the biscuit is right there waiting for you.”

Be Yourself

“Forget about your parents’ alma maters and their desire for you to carry on the family tradition. Pave your own path. This is your life…don’t let anyone else tell you how to live it. And that goes for what college you ultimately choose. Of course, take the time to consider what others are advising you to do. If your parents have strong thoughts about what school you should attend, then by all means listen respectfully. But ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s your decision because it’s your life. Trust me, if you do then you will be much more happy with whatever decision you ultimately make about college.”

Related: 5 Things High School Seniors Can Do To Prepare For College