The first time I learned about Miami University of Ohio, it was from a postcard. In November. Of my senior year. I had already applied to a few colleges but figured I would attend the event advertised on the mailer. I sat through the presentation given by the Miami admissions rep and was hooked. This was where I wanted to go to college.
As a first generation student, I didn’t know the correct path for applying to colleges, but my parents were incredibly supportive and had been telling me since I was in kindergarten that I would definitely be attending college after high school. I mostly chose colleges to apply to based on the pretty posters in the Upland High School career center.
I loved my college. I still love it. I am the one driving around with a REDHWKS license plate, celebrating Miami’s Division I teams. How did I find my college? By keeping an open mind.
It’s okay to start your search to find a college with those pretty posters, but you need to dive deeper to know whether that college is a good fit. Once I applied to Miami, I did more research and determined it was the right fit for me. I would suggest you do it just a bit sooner!
Here are five things I have my students do to research colleges:
1. Attend college fairs and visit the tables of a few schools you haven’t heard of. It’s important to know about the options out there because there are so many!
2. Tour two local colleges. I recommend visiting a large state school and a small private college. That way, you can compare the types of campuses. It’s a great way to learn about the kind of vibe and size you prefer when it comes to a college campus.
3. Write down five non-negotiables for your college experience. They could be a large sports program, warm weather, a strong physics program, small class sizes, close to (or far from) home, or an amazing debate team.
4. The Big Future section of College Board has a great starting point where you can filter colleges by campus size, majors, location, and myriad other parameters. Use some of those non-negotiables in the filters! It’s a great way to get an initial list of schools to research.
If I could do it all over again, I would still go to Miami, but I would also craft a smarter list and do it earlier in high school so I could make sure I maximized the options I had. By opening up your list to options you might not have originally considered, and by doing your research early and in a smart way, you will have a list of great college options. And then, go ahead and throw Miami University, the best school in the country (obviously), on the list. Go Redhawks!