What should you think about when selecting a college or university? When I started thinking about where I wanted to continue my education, I began to consider many factors that ultimately contributed to my decision. These factors included the size of the school, its geographic location, the cost of attending, and the availability of support services. Finding a compatible roommate, living quarters, transportation, and student organizations were also important in my decision-making process. This article describes my own experiences in selecting my undergraduate school.
The Home Front
I attended a small high school in Detroit, Michigan, with a population of approximately 500 students. Due to the small population, we were able to receive one-on-one attention from our teachers. I believe that atmosphere contributed to my success as a student and as an individual. Ultimately, though, I decided not to attend college in Michigan because I wanted independence--I would have been tempted go home every weekend otherwise. In addition, I had to decide if I should attend a small or large institution. And after I visited and spoke with students attending schools of various sizes, I knew that a large university was not for me.
Geographic Location and Financial Support
After deciding not to attend college in Michigan, I had to consider the location of the school that I wanted to attend. I love to shop and eat fast food, so I had to be somewhere where shopping malls were easily accessible. In addition, I did not have a car; thus, I wanted to be in a place with a decent transportation system. In many instances, public transportation is not available in rural areas, so I decided that I was going to attend a school that was located in or very close to a metropolitan area. However, I would encourage you to speak with students attending schools in various areas (rural, city) in order for you to make the best decision for your needs.
Once I made a final decision regarding the size and the location of the school I wanted to attend, I had to determine how I was going to finance my education. Since I do not come from a wealthy home, I looked into scholarships and grants. After a click of the mouse and a few phone calls, I discovered that there was tons of financial aid available! An Internet tool such as Fast Web  is an excellent resource for those looking for scholarship opportunities. My counselors, teachers, and friends also informed me of scholarships that I might be eligible for. The application process was not easy, but it was worth the effort. I am sure that my writing abilities improved from preparing so many essays!
After I narrowed down my choices, I decided to get in touch with people who were attending or had attended the schools that I was considering. The brochures that I received through the mail from the institutions simply did not provide enough information for me. I wanted information about the surrounding environment, dormitories, student activities, and last but not least support services. The individuals that I spoke with were very candid and their honesty certainly contributed to my decision.
After talking to my peers and mentors, I decided to see the schools for myself. Most of the schools that I visited gave guided tours (with guides wearing their school's paraphernalia) of the campus. The tours stopped at specific points so that the guides could share a bit of the history of the school. We were usually allowed to see a sample dorm room and eat in the cafeteria before the tour ended. At one of the schools I visited, my experience was very different. One of my associates, who was attending an institution I was interested in, invited me to stay with her for a week. During that week, I toured the campus, attended classes, ate in the cafeteria, went shopping, and saw a movie. I also spoke with faculty in various departments. Furthermore, my associate was a student ambassador--thus, her knowledge of the school's history was more than ample. It was her hospitality and other factors that led me to attend Howard University .
Although Howard met all of my requirements, I had to make some adjustments when I moved to Washington, D.C. Before I left for college, I had never shared a bedroom. The university informed me prior to my arrival that I would have a roommate. Most freshman students are placed in double rooms. I filled out a roommate request form and I was paired with someone who had similar responses to the questions on the form. Living in the same room with another person forced me to make compromises. There were times when I had to study or entertain my friends elsewhere because my roommate was asleep or she had friends over. I grew from that experience and I had a greater appreciation for my room in Detroit when I returned on holidays! In the end everything worked out. I am glad that I chose Howard and I have not regretted my decision.
Before making any decision about attending a university or college, make sure you conduct your own research. Talk with students, faculty, and administrators and visit the campus. This will certainly help you make a final decision.
Lakedra Evans is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in chemistry at Howard University. For further information, please e-mail Lakedra at email@example.com .