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6 Questions To Ask Yourself When Choosing a College

6 Questions To Ask Yourself When Choosing a College
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Choosing a college requires academic, professional, and personal considerations. However, some prospective students focus too much on a single aspect of college life, to the exclusion of other interrelated (and important!) factors.

Sure, you have your heart set on going to a private university with a strong lacrosse program on the opposite end of the country. But can you afford the tuition, and are your prepared to forfeit frequent trips home?

Maybe you want to avoid living in the city, but as an aspiring veterinarian, know some of the best undergraduate veterinary programs are at urban universities.

You might be someone who already has outside obligations, like being a parent or having a job commitment, and you need a convenient setting for getting your degree quickly without significant financial investment.

Transferring schools can be part of a strategic plan for getting into your dream college, but unexpected switching is costly and wastes time. Get it right the first time by asking yourself the following six questions when determining where to apply to college.

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1. Where is my ideal location?

Is it important for you to see your parents every holiday? If you live more than a few hours away, you might not be able to get home for Thanksgiving. Conversely, if you want a situation where your parents can’t just “drop by” on a Friday night, don’t choose a campus 15 minutes down the road.

A good distance for many students is 3-5 hours from home–you are close enough that you can get back relatively easily when you need to, but not so near that you can run home every time you have a bad day.

Beyond proximity to home, think about whether or not you prefer an urban or rural-based campus. There are advantages to both: living in a city affords you more of an escape from the campus “bubble,” while the rural school provides a more insular college experience and tight-knit academic community.

2. What size school is best for me?

Consider three aspects of a school’s size when applying to college. First, look at the overall student body. Are there 50,000 undergraduates on campus? 1,200? Do you want to meet as many people as possible, or feel like you know most of your classmates?

Second, how big is the campus? Some people want to be able to walk to every class, and need a campus that is relatively easy to traverse on foot. However, most urban campuses will sprawl over a larger area, requiring students to be strategic about getting between classes quickly.

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Finally, look at the teacher-to-student ratio. If it’s important for you to develop relationships with your professors or receive more attention in class, avoid enormous schools where your smallest classes still have fifty-some people.

3. Wait, how much is this going to cost?

You can’t put a price on education. But schools sure can put a price on educating you.

Public schools will almost always be less expensive than private colleges, and if you live in-state, your tuition could be even lower.

Work out a budget with your parents if they are helping you pay for school. If you’re on your own, figure out what you can afford to pay after investigating your options for external funding. Do the schools you’re looking at offer merit-based scholarships or financial aid? Are you willing to take out student loans? Perhaps you might consider a program like ROTC, where you make a service commitment in exchange for a college education.

4. Does the school serve my academic and professional interests?

Maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to do after graduating, but you want to strengthen your analytical and research skills. Look for high-ranking liberal arts programs. Or perhaps you are more technically inclined and want a hands-on environment or laboratory experience; in that case, apply to schools that have a reputation for strong science and technology departments.

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If you know precisely what you want to do during and after college, look for colleges that will support your ambitions. For example, if you are intent on becoming a lawyer, find an undergraduate program with a high rate of graduating students who get into law school. Also consider whether the school’s alumni actively recruit current students for internships and jobs.

5. What kind of social life are you looking for?

Is studying abroad important to you? See how opportunities to travel and study abroad are folded into college programs.

If basketball, football, or rowing is a huge part of your life and makes you happy, look for schools where you might have an opportunity to play–even if that just means in an intramural league.

Or maybe you have a cause–feeding the hungry, working at an animal shelter, or doing volunteer work abroad. Investigate volunteer opportunities at prospective schools so you can continue doing something you value.

Not all schools have the Greek Life system, so if you’ve always wanted to join a sorority or fraternity, make sure they are available. Conversely, if someone couldn’t pay you to join a frat, look into the degree to which Greek Life permeates a prospective school’s social scene.

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6. Can I see myself happy here?

What you want out of school will vary from person to person. If you’re living at home, maybe you need a place where you can still make friends and feel included. But if you are moving to another state to live on campus, it’s important that you feel comfortable calling the school “home” for the next 2-5 years.

More importantly, are there opportunities for you to grow, both academically and personally? If you change your mind about what you want to study or your intended career path, will it be relatively simple to switch tracks? You want a school that recognizes the value in letting students experiment with different areas of study, while respecting a healthy work-life balance.

Everyone is giving me advice. Who’s right?

While it is worth soliciting advice from a trusted parent, advisor, or friend, ultimately it is best to honor your own preferences and needs. You are the one who is going to be going to the classes, writing the papers, and taking the tests. So don’t choose a school based solely on where your favorite uncle went, or where your girlfriend is going.

Apply to schools you actually want to attend.

And choose a college where you will flourish, personally and academically.

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How did you pick the right school for you? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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