by Michael Tomlin-Crutchfield

Going to college is a major life milestone. It’s a chance to start fresh, figure out who you are, build a tribe, and pursue your dreams. What if I told you that some schools can make it easier to reach your goals and choosing the right college is just as important as choosing to go at all?

Every school offers a different set of majors, on-campus activities, and campus culture – each of which plays a major role in your college experience, especially in your first year.

The Culture

In the last few years campus climate has become increasingly important in the college selection process. Students are looking for schools that give them the space to be themselves and where they feel safe, physically and psychologically. Whether it’s an HBCU, a Big Ten champion or a smaller liberal arts school known for its close-knit student body, choose a school that works for you.


If you’re from a big city or a small town, going to college in a completely new and different place can be a culture shock. That’s not to say you won’t be able to adjust, but choosing a school that can provide you a comfort zone without being a major distraction is important to keep in mind.


Some of the country’s most prestigious schools are smaller liberal arts colleges that offer limited options to major in STEM. So, if you’re planning to be an engineer, these schools may not be the right fit. Researching what courses and majors a college offers will help you weed out the schools that don’t give you the opportunity to pursue your desired career track.


Each college/university has a brand. Schools with big names and notable reputations have strong alumni networks that can provide you with friend groups and professional mentors that can help guide your career. A name isn’t everything, but it’s something to consider.

Big v. Small

Some people are introverts, some are extroverts, and others are easily overwhelmed by large crowds of people. If you happen to fall in the last bucket, a big 10 university may not be the ideal choice.

Schools like the University of Michigan and Ohio State can have upwards of 40,000 students on campus at any given moment. Choose a school that provides an environment where you feel you can stand out and perform at your best while getting the support you need.

Check out the College Board’s Big Future tool for more information on navigating the college selection process.