So, You’ve Started Your College Search…
Congratulations-you've officially started your college search!
It's an exciting time to be thinking about the next steps in your journey. One of the challenges (and benefits) of your college search is that many people in your life will start asking you "what schools are you looking at?" and "what are you going to major in?" Unfortunately, it's easy for these questions to add a layer of anxiousness. Here are some tips for staying intentional and well-paced in your college search.
You DO NOT need to have a major confirmed before you research or apply to colleges. Many colleges offer a wide variety of majors, or the ability to specialize with internships later in your college career. You do not need to lock it in now. If you focus too heavily only on colleges that specialize in one program now, it's possible that your interests will evolve. Some students know exactly what they want to do (if that's you, then fantastic!). But if you aren't that confident, it's a good idea to focus on a few programs that are potential fits.
Once you have an idea of the programs you may want to pursue, and a preliminary list of colleges that offer those programs, find the answers to the following questions:
- Does the college offer only one program of interest to you or several pathways in case you change your mind? Check out our RWU programs page to learn more about all the majors at RWU. A cool web feature: when you click on a major, it will suggest "related programs" to let you explore other potential majors of interest!
- How easy is it to change majors? At more comprehensive universities like RWU you may apply directly to a major or school of study (like applying to our School of Architecture). Every college and major has different guidelines and admission policies that impact the ease or challenge of switching programs. Pro tip: even if you are 100% sure of your major, ask how easy it is to change majors on every campus tour you go on in the months ahead.
- If you are still exploring majors, ask "how does your college help me select a major?" For example, our Center for Career and Professional Development offers programs and tools that help you explore your interests and connect them with majors and future career paths. Additionally, our CORE curriculum intentionally exposes you to several disciplines giving you an idea of the opportunities available to you.
Sticker Price is not the full picture! Since you're just starting your college search, we encourage you not to rule out schools just because of the listed tuition cost. It's important to do a little more research. Scholarship and financial aid opportunities will vary at each school. Here are some questions you can ask or research to get a better feel for affordability and value:
- What percentage of students receive aid? (It's 96% at RWU).
- Ask schools about their merit scholarships (awards based on your high school accomplishments) and their "need-based" financial aid (based on your family's financial resources). Understand what's available and how you may qualify for these options.
- What type of award can I receive? Knowing how much money a school gives in scholarships or the average aid award can only help you so much. Every financial aid package is specific to the family and student situation. Pro tip: did you know that every college in the U.S. is required to have a Net Price Calculator on their website? This gives you a more personalized financial aid early estimate based on information you and your parents can easily enter. Check out ours.
- Are there additional or special scholarships to which you can apply? For example, Roger Williams offers the Intercultural Leadership Ambassador Program and Scholarship, which covers full tuition for students who meet the selected criteria.
Keep an open mind and visit colleges. Brochures, websites, videos and virtual tours can all start to look alike and can only teach you so much. Trust that you'll learn something new at each college you visit. There can be a difference between what you think you want and what you actually want. Sometimes you just don't know until you experience it. For example, you may think you want a large college with Division I sports because the school spirit will be exciting. But, once you visit, you might realize it just feels too big for you.
So, let your interests evolve and be comfortable adjusting your path as you learn more through your research and campus visits. To be intentional and well-paced in your college search, simply remember to be open-minded and thoughtful and ask any and all questions that arise.
If you found this article helpful, check out the other articles in the series and keep an eye out for new ones we will be posting. Also, remember, our admission counselors are always happy to answer questions for you! Come visit us any time!Tips and Advice Blog