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How to Research and Choose the Right School for You

Once upon a time, choosing where to attend school was a great deal simpler. Before the internet, you might have perused cumbersome tomes at the local library that listed schools by state or by area of interest (for example, the sciences or liberal arts), though this didn’t give you a lot of practical, hands-on information.

You might have sought advice from family, friends, and neighbors and made some phone calls or visits, but it was still somewhat random.

Thankfully, today we have digital descriptions, usually accompanied by video, that are almost as good as an in-person campus tour, familiarizing you and your family with everything from dorms to classrooms to extracurricular activities, all with the touch of a screen and a simple scroll.

You’re seeking a secondary school where students’ abilities drive the highly experiential curriculum. You may be drawn to Delphian School in Oregon, where educators connect academic learning to a student’s future to help them envision and create a fulfilling path forward.

Ready to dive in? Here are some of the best ways to choose the right school for you:

1.   Consider what you want to study. This is different from choosing a school according to your major. Undecided students might do well to select a liberal arts school that will allow them to choose a specific major down the line — but what if you already know what calls to you? Suppose you want to pursue a STEM career, for example. In that case, you will want to focus your search on schools that are known for their science, technology, engineering, or math majors, such as MIT, California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Texas A & M University, or University of California at Berkeley, all of which offer outstanding STEM programs.

2.   Analyse college rankings. Every year, U.S. News and World Report publishes an annual ranking of colleges complete with a photo overview, information on academics and the student body, tuition and other fees, and campus life.


Short of an actual in-person visit, these rankings are an excellent way to get a sense of what schools dovetail with who you are, what type of campus environment appeals to you, what you wish to study, where you want to live, and, of course, the cost.

3.   Take a trip to the school fair. College fairs enable prospective attendees to gather information about various schools in one fell swoop. And they can provide a silver lining: you might meet an admissions professional who can direct you to a course of study you hadn’t known about or an independent study program that fits in perfectly with the major you’re considering. If any former students are helping out at the booth, you can also take this opportunity to pick their brains about the kinds of campus details you’re unlikely to find on the school’s website.

Virtual college fairs are growing in popularity, especially since the pandemic. At these fairs, students can watch live streaming video presentations, visit virtual booths, ask questions, and gather information, just as they would in person.

4.   Connect with current students. There’s nothing like getting the low-down from the horse’s mouth. Two platforms that allow students to post information you won’t hear about on campus tours are, an online college guidebook written by students for students, and, which has a similar take and includes mention of scholarships you may want to apply for.

5.   Speaking of money. Unless you’re a legacy or your family is quite well off, financing your studies is likely to be an important part of the decision-making process. College is a major expense, second only to buying a house for many people, so student loans should not be your only option when possible. This is why looking into financial aid should be considered an integral part of your school research. Start with FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which offers grants, loans, work-study, and other opportunities.


You can also check out sites such as, a subscription service that connects you with scholarships nationwide.

6.   Weigh the pros and cons. Suppose you’ve selected several schools and are now stymied about how to choose among them. It’s time to make a list so you can compare and contrast across data points. Big Future’s College Board enables you to create a list of your top choices and compare them across various criteria to help determine which one is an overall best fit for you.

Whether your interests lie in renewables and nature, science and medicine, business and entrepreneurship, or AI and crypto, choosing where to hone the skills and gain the knowledge to pursue these dreams is an important decision in every young life.

Today, you have unprecedented resources literally at your fingertips to find the ideal fit for your future. Choose wisely. Good luck!