Choose the Right College for You

As you search for your school, keep the following factors in mind.

Everyone is different. Just because one of your friends is going to a particular university or “everyone” is going to a popular college doesn’t mean that the school is the right place for you. Remember to take the time to consider places that may not be the right choice for “everyone,” but might be the right choice for you.

Visit your school’s college counselor early and often. Use online college search tools to begin exploring colleges, along with visiting college web sites to collect information about academic strengths, admission policies, extracurriculars, living arrangements and more. Remember to attend college nights and meet college representatives at your high school.

It’s a good idea to visit several college campuses, including several different types (e.g., one small, liberal arts college; one large, four-year state school; one two-year community college, etc.). It will help you figure out exactly what you want from your college experience and think of questions you may not have thought of previously. When you schedule your visit, try to do so when school is in session and ask about the possibility of sitting in on a class. If applicable, look into an overnight stay in the residence halls with a host student for a real taste of what it would be like to live and study at that college.

Harper offers high school students and your family the opportunity to meet with an admissions specialist to discuss your educational path or take a tour. If you are interested in scheduling a college visit at Harper, please call 847.925.6700.

Some colleges are known for being particularly strong in certain areas of study. These may be in liberal arts such as English, communications and the arts, or they may be in more specialized areas such as science, law or medicine. Although you might change your mind about your major after you have entered college, you should certainly look at institutions offering programs that interest you.

A two-year community college such as Harper can be an excellent way to make the transition from high school to college. A two-year institution offers small class sizes, personalized attention and the option to live at home. Many two-year colleges also offer career education in specific fields such as health care, electronics, manufacturing, engineering or law enforcement that give you the education you need to start working right after graduating with an associate degree or certificate.

Many colleges, especially private institutions, have specific admission requirements. These include test scores, high school grade point averages, performance in math and evidence of involvement in school or community activities. Some schools may require applicants to have taken two years of the same world language in high school while others require a year of fine arts.

Most colleges and universities offer grants and scholarships. You may want to enroll at the college offering you the most or largest scholarships and grants. Remember to do the math, though: If a private university offers you a $10,000 scholarship but tuition starts at $25,000 per year, you will still need to pay $15,000 per year. By comparison, in-state tuition and fees at a four-year Illinois public university cost, on average, $14,667 per year before financial aid or scholarships are considered.* Tuition at a community college like Harper can cost approximately $5,000 per year.

*College Board: Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2021https://research.collegeboard.org/pdf/trends-college-pricing-student-aid-2021.pdf

Many colleges and universities have specific application deadlines. If you miss the deadline, your application may not be considered. Applications can be submitted beginning in the fall of your senior year.

Doing research is absolutely necessary to making the right decision. However, there are so many choices, that you may feel overwhelmed. A good strategy is to decide what is most important to you in a college choice then narrow your choices down to five institutions. When you are down to five, focus on finding out more about each specific institution.

Attending a college or university depends on many factors, including cost. Be sure to look at where the college is located. For example, would you be comfortable studying and/or living in an urban or rural area? Be sure that you also consider student life opportunities, extracurricular activities and career planning support.

Keep information for each college in separate files along with any notes you make about the institution. Keep your test scores, transcripts and other related information in the correct college file so that you can easily complete and file the application.

Pay attention to application deadlines. Work within the posted deadlines to apply for any college-specific scholarships or grants. Use the tracking forms included in this guide to help you.

Last Updated: 9/9/22