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Finding the College that’s Right for You: Expert Advice for a Tough Decision
Updated August 2, 2023
By Rachel Mead, Kevin Krallman, Charles Zito, Kaelin Cooley, and BriAna Lopez

There are a million factors to consider when choosing your path to higher education. What school is right for you? Should you go right away or take a gap year? Public or private? Two year or four year? The number of options and number of decisions you have to make are enough to make your head spin. Below, hear from some of Enhanced Prep’s experts to help give you a bit of guidance. While they can’t make the decisions for you, they can help you understand what questions are the right ones to ask yourself when planning your college journey.

College Fit: How Do I Choose the Right School?

By Rachel Mead

Rachel spent decades as a tutor before founding Enhanced Prep to help set students up for success and turn reach into reality.

Factors to Consider to Find a Best Fit College

By Kevin Krallman

Choosing which colleges to apply to is a big decision. Ideally, you will have a list of 5-7 colleges that you will be sending applications to, and you should be happy to attend any of your chosen schools. So how do you go about identifying the best colleges for you? There are over 5,000 different colleges and universities in the US alone, so it can seem very daunting to whittle that list down to a manageable number. So, where do we start? Below you will find several categories of questions to ask yourself, which will help you narrow down your list of schools.


Do you want to go somewhere close to where you currently live, or farther away? Do you want to go to college in a small town, or a big city? Is there a specific landmark you want to be close to (ocean, mountains, rivers, etc.)? Remember to consider the weather conditions as well!

Size of the College

Smaller colleges will typically have a smaller class size, and more interaction with professors, but may limit what you are able to do on campus. Do you want to go to a large state university (25,000+) or a smaller college?

Area of Study

If you know what you’re interested in studying, then make sure the schools on your list have a program that matches. If you are unsure of what you’re interested in, then choose schools with a wide variety of majors and focuses.

Greek Life, College Athletics, or Other Common College Experiences

Do you want a school with a large Greek society and/or Athletics department? Are there any college experiences you've always dreamed of having? Make sure you research the places you are applying so you know what they have to offer.

There are many more reasons to consider which colleges will be the best fit for you. There’s a ton of information on the internet about the best schools for just about anything – so if it matters to you, try searching for it! Look for lists of schools with the most diversity, best student housing, great dining options, or whatever is important to you. Take some time to do your research before you create your list, and you will be surprised how many colleges out there can be your best fit.

Kevin has been a tutor for over 6 years. He loves helping students overcome obstacles, teaching students how to have fun while learning, and octopuses.

Choosing the College of Your Dreams

By Charles Zito

A crowded college library

College application season can be a time fraught with anxiety, and not just for students awaiting word from colleges. There is quite a lot of pressure for students to select colleges that are the “schools of their dreams” or, at the very least, “a good fit.”

But what does this really mean? Most importantly, how can students choose the college that best suits them? I found one piece of advice offered by a peer that concerned helping students choose the university they would attend especially thoughtful and forward-thinking.

She recommended asking students to consider what they thought of when they envisioned college - where they wanted to be, what things they wanted to be surrounded by. She asked them to determine what would make them happiest in a natural outdoor setting: the climate, the topography, the inherent recreational activities.

Do you want to be near mountains? A forest? A big city? Do you like snow, or would you rather be able to go the beach on any given day? Do you like to cycle, hike, or kayak? Would you like to be able to take a subway to every part of the surrounding area?

She asked them to describe what they imagined the buildings of a great university should look like and what that appearance would mean to them and their daily experience of the college. Do you want to be surrounded by old architecture with creeping ivy, reminiscent of a past time, or would you be invigorated by modern architecture that makes you feel a part of the wave of the future?

Literally having students close their eyes and come up with an image and then describe it, she honed in on what the students imagined their ideal college would look and feel like, not just the name of the school and the subject to be studied.

These considerations were honestly nothing I had ever challenged a student to consider, but, after hearing this from my colleague, I think it is a wonderful exercise in the process of helping a student select the most suitable university for him or her. After all, college is a place most students will spend at least four very formative, intense, and rewarding years of their live - environment does matter!

So, I challenge the readers of this article to close their eyes and imagine the university outside of the classroom and beyond academic statistics. Where do you see yourself? What do you want your daily college experience to look and feel like? What environment excites you the most as a scholar?

Feel free to write down what you visualize, and then let these details guide the development and (ultimately) formation of your college list.

What Makes Your College Hat Fit Just Right?

By Kaelin Cooley

What makes your top choice college different from others? Is it the food? The campus? The athletic department? Are the academics outstanding? There’s a lot of pressure in determining which college or university to attend and commit years of your life. Most of the time, you have input from friends, family, mentors, and educators, but nothing should matter more than your input on where you will do best.

Finishing my junior year of high school, I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to go to college or what I even wanted to study. Like many students, I just knew I wanted to go. Once you take the ACT® or SAT, a lot of colleges will spam you with mail, trying to get you to attend their school without actually caring about who you are as a person. I looked through these, did some google searches just to see what these schools had to offer, but nothing stood out to me. Over time, I started to make a list of schools. With my parents, I planned a road trip to go visit schools in and out of state, virtually visiting the ones too far away.

This small private liberal arts school in Oregon was nothing outstanding to me. However, as a volleyball player for 7 years previously, I was able to talk to the JV coach at this D3 school. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the faculty at a school- it shows your interest and builds connections!

The campus was small but beautiful. It felt like a very tight knit community surrounded by a small town. After this visit, I stayed in contact with the JV coach, and she expressed interest in having me work towards the varsity team. One thing I knew before applying to colleges was that if I had the opportunity to continue playing volleyball through school, I would take the chance. Long story short, this plan for volleyball fell through on the coach’s end after I had already paid and accepted to attend this University. Although I did enjoy the school for reasons other than volleyball, my heart was shattered.

Once classes started, I made friends and memories, but everyone else was a part of some sport or activity at the school, including my roommate. I was not. I started to feel out of place, just an empty seat to fill at the school. Anxiety and depression hit me the hardest during my freshman year, but after a year of struggling, I realized I needed to make a change. If you are not thriving where you are or feeling accepted, you can always transfer to a school that fits you better.

A large D1 University in Idaho caught my eye: my best friend was currently attending, their athletic department was large and exciting, and I did not have to be in a sport to feel accepted. I transferred to this University my sophomore year of college, and it was the best decision I ever made. I immediately felt at home, enjoying my classes and the community around me. I took the risk to transfer with lower grades, but over the four years I attended this University I was able to earn my place on the Dean’s list and substantially improved my GPA. After this, I then received 5 Master of Athletic Training Programs acceptances. From there, I made sure to pick my graduate school based on where I felt most accepted, important, and valued. I hope you can learn from my experience and find a school that feels like home.

Kaelin has been with Enhanced Prep from the beginning and serves as a college advisor for students looking to find the right college fit. She has a BS in Health Science from Boise State and will complete her Masters in Athletic Training at the University of Idaho in 2023.

Students studying together on the green

Alternative Paths to College

By Kevin Krallman

When people think about the typical college experience, they invariably think of graduating from high school and then going directly to a four-year university. But there are different options available that may make more sense for many students. The biggest one is Community College (sometimes called Junior College). There are several reasons why Community College might be a good choice for you, many of which I know from personal experience.

One of the largest advantages to spending a year or two at Community College is financial. Credit hours at a Community College are vastly more affordable than similar credit hours at a typical four-year university. I saved over $25,000 by spending my first two years at Community College, and I still took the same core classes that students at my four-year university also took. This allowed me to graduate college with a smaller student loan debt than I otherwise would have if I had gone straight to a four-year university.

Another advantage of Community College is smaller class-sizes and more professor interaction. When I took Organic Chemistry, I took it at my local Community College with ten other students, as opposed to the typical 400 student lectures at a four-year university. This allowed for much more interaction with my professor and made what otherwise would have been a very difficult class more manageable. I also found it to be the case that I had very passionate professors at my Community College, who were teaching their subject because they loved to teach. Oftentimes at four-year universities, introductory courses are taught by Teaching Assistants, not actual professors.

While Community College is not right for everyone, it is still a very good option for a lot of students. There are a lot of really great Community Colleges out there, and just like a four-year university, it is imperative that you do your research before deciding where to apply.

Kevin has been a tutor for over 6 years. He loves helping students overcome obstacles, teaching students how to have fun while learning, and octopuses.

3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Attending University as a First Gen College Student

By BriAna Lopez

Seven years ago, I walked into my freshman dorm room, and I was unprepared. Not necessarily in terms of academic preparedness, but for everything else in between. As a first gen college student, it can be tough navigating a college campus as the first in your family. For so many first gen college students, you go to college with the heavy weight of expectations. As someone who made it through, here are three things I wish I knew before attending college.

There are Resources for your Resource’s Resources

Colleges have so many resources that are underutilized. Make use of the tuition you pay! Sometimes it feels like you are navigating your experience completely alone, but remember there is a whole school of professors, mentors, peers, and campus resources. Familiarize yourself with the financial aid office and stay informed on your tuition and housing costs. Stop by the career center and learn about local job trends or make new connections in your major. Introduce yourself to your professors or TAs and attend office hours when you need help. Locate your health services and learn about their offerings for students. Every campus has unique resources, so explore these early and often.

Find Your Place

The school I attended was in a completely new state on a campus with 20,000 undergraduate students. I was afraid to lose my way, and honestly, I did at first. Within the first few weeks of school, there were career fairs, free events, and people constantly handing me pamphlets, business cards, and flyers. I hadn’t fully grasped that I was a college student, and I felt like I didn’t have room to explore extra-curriculars. My advice? Research all the different organizations and clubs on your campus before school starts. Pin-point certain organizations you like and plan out who you want to connect with. Remember to keep your mind open because you never know what group you’ll find. If there’s a first-gen college student organization or club, try it out. It will make a campus, no matter how big or small, start to feel like home.

Be Kind to Yourself

Initially, failure was always at the top of my mind. If I could tell younger me to take a step back and be kind to myself, I would. There will be times when you are overwhelmed, make mistakes, and possibly question if college was the right choice. Always remember, you are walking a completely new path, and that is admirable.

Think about some ways you can show kindness to yourself every day. Set real expectations for yourself, be your own advocate and give yourself recognition. Ultimately, you are investing in yourself by taking the leap and attending college. You have already overcome so many obstacles just to be able to say you are a college student. Be kind to yourself.

BriAna is a first-generation college graduate with a BA in Psychology and a BS in Sociology from West Washington University

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