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6 Questions To Ask Yourself When Choosing a College

6 Questions To Ask Yourself When Choosing a College

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.

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

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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