Ask An Expert: Tips On Starting The College Search

Ask An Expert: Tips On Starting The College Search
cathedraloflearning2 Ask An Expert: Tips On Starting The College Search

Photo Credit: KDKA

Searching for the right college is no easy task, but it takes a concerted effort with parents and students to find the perfect fit. There has to be heaps of homework, and that includes financial obligations, talks with a guidance counselor and students at the school and trips to the college campus. The school should have a comfortable atmosphere and a variety of extracurricular activities and classes that meet the student’s learning style. It is prudent to attend college fairs, scour the Internet for answers and make more than one college visit. Try out the college campus and check out the facilities where students live, study and congregate.

Dr. Joanne Leight

Slippery Rock University
1 Morrow Way
Slippery Rock, PA 16057
(724) 738-2795

Joanne Leight is a highly regarded Professor of Physical Education and Health and her attributes of academia include Instructional Leadership Education and Instructional Technology with a certificate from Duquesne University. Joanne is involved with her students and has guided them with an intense desire for them to be successful. She has taken students to Europe and this stretches the curriculum with a global awareness in all aspects of education. Dr. Leight is involved in community affairs, Google technology, recreational pursuits and has a fantastic communication with the students. This is the main reason why students are clamoring to take part in her classes. Here are some tips she has for starting a college search.

Tip 1: Decide What You Want To Study

This can guide your college search. If you are unsure of a major, explore your interest areas and see if there might be a major close to that area. For example, if you like being physically active, you may want to major in Physical Education. However, if you don’t want to be a teacher, you may explore a related major like Physical Activity and Fitness Management or Exercise Science. Keep an open mind for your major, especially since many students end up changing their major after they arrive on campus.

Tip 2: Find A Setting That Suits Your Personality And Background

Some students thrive in a big city, others in a more rural environment. You need to be in a setting that makes you comfortable and happy. This is even more true if you decide to change your major. If you pick a campus solely on a major, you may regret it if you end up not liking that particular course of study. If you choose a campus that is right for you (size, location, culture and distance to home), then you can still be very happy in this setting, even if you do end up changing your career path.

Tip 3: Visit A Number Of Campuses 

Go on a tour, talk with students, make an appointment with the admissions office, attend a class, hang out in the student union and ask questions. Even schools that may not be at the top of your list should still be visited. If you plan a visit then you can see some of the options that are available. Even if you leave knowing that the school is not for you, at least you made an educated decision after having all of the relevant information. Check out information about financial aid, student-to-faculty ratio and the graduation rate that relates to the academics for the best value and affordability.

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Tip 4: Be Proactive And Do Your Homework

Search websites, talk to your guidance counselor, contact admissions offices, talk to current students or alumni and attend college fairs or visitation days. This is a huge decision and you want to gather as much information as you can to make the right decision for you. Remember, you are about to be a college freshmen, so you need to be doing the work. Having a parent make the phone calls or sending emails isn’t preferred. Take responsibility during the search process.

Tip 5: Don’t Choose A School Just Because Your Friends Go There

Choose a school that has what you want and need for a successful future. In addition to having your major, you should also consider such things as the ideal class sizes for your learning style, extracurricular activities that interest you and good housing and meal options (to name just a few). Above all else, it should just feel right when you step on campus. It is prudent to be aware of which schools have a commitment to your success and quality of learning. There are other opportunities to prepare a future and that includes community colleges and trade schools. Each school has a recognition of excellence and whether it is academics or athletics, there should be a main ingredient for career preparation and possible leadership positions.

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

Gerry Cernicky is a retired health and physical education teacher with 36 years of experience. He is a former teacher of the year and a sports writer for the Vandergrift News. He delivers podcasts, and maintains a website and blog. He currently resides in Pittsburgh. His work can be found at