Alumni Advice: How to Choose the Best College For You

How to choose the best college for you

Who better to give college search advice than those who have recently been through the decision-making process? In our Alumni Facebook group, we asked our alumni for their tips and advice they would give current high school students that are beginning the college search process.

Below are the answers and personal experiences from our alumni.

My biggest tip is to apply everywhere you could possibly see yourself going. Luckily for me, I got accepted into my first choice school and didn’t stress so much after that, but the months leading up to that decision were nerve racking. Apply for scholarships ASAP. Having too many choices you’re in love with is a good problem to have, especially compared to having too few choices. Don’t hold off from applying to an instate school just because it’s your family favorite’s rival. Apply there, just to be safe. Also, when you do have all these colleges on your list of “to apply to,” make sure you don’t miss the deadline/scholarship deadlines. It is always better to have too many options than too few. Explore the city around the college when you tour it. You will likely never set foot in some of the buildings they show you on tour, but you will want to know where the local restaurants are, how close of a walk/drive the dorms are to Publix/Walmart, etc. These things matter! Test out the public transportation. If public transportation isn’t for you, that’s something you need to know ahead of time! (I say this as someone who absolutely hates public transportation but needs to use the bus daily).” – Natalie Davis ‘16


“Don’t be afraid to apply to schools out of state. One of my best decisions was moving to New England. Experiencing a new part of the country was amazing.” – Alex Irish ‘08


“Make sure that you’re going to school in a place you want to LIVE. Your school community is so much bigger than just campus.” – Rachel Sledge ‘13


“I wish I had looked into more schools out of the country. I learned that I could have gone to one of the top schools in Tokyo for about the same price as going to USF. Don’t just look in English-speaking countries; there are plenty of places out there that have English-only courses.” – Elysa Geldbaugh ‘13


Apply to Bright Futures. You’re dead set on going out of state and know FOR SURE that you won’t stay in Florida? Still apply. You can’t apply after high school, and you never know what might happen. You may end up choosing to stay in Florida, or something else may bring you back. Also, it’s cheesy as heck, but follow your heart. Go where YOU want to spend 4 years, not where anyone else is pressuring you or forcing you to go. Don’t get caught up in the small differences that might make another college slightly “better” than another in the eyes of the public. You can find success at any college. Your experience will be what you make of it. Just go where you’ll be happy.” – Matt Grossenbach ‘10


“If you get Bright Futures some out of state schools will match it. Don’t be afraid to ask! Look into what kinds of clubs and organizations schools have to offer and see if there are ways to get involved before classes start. I joined a Living Learning Community at Florida State and it has been a great way to meet people and make friends who have the same academic interests as you!” – Grace Faith ‘16


“I would actually say go to community college, if you don’t care about the ‘college experience.’ It’s the same classes, way cheaper, and it’s helpful in acclimating yourself with what college is like.” – Steven Burnley ‘15


“College choices should do two things: minimize costs and maximize time spent doing cool things. Receiving certain scholarships not only provides financial independence and lets you use your money on better purchases, namely food, but also allows you intimate access to the university’s resources, speakers, and alumni networks. Another point: aim to be the biggest fish in as big a pond as possible while achieving the above, otherwise you’re just floundering around. (Aside: Most of the people we associate with the big universities were big fishes there, e.g. Bill Gates was a math savant and perhaps one of the brightest mathematics undergrads that Harvard has seen in a while, thus he was able to best use the resources given to him.)” – Raj Warman ‘16


“Make sure to talk to your parents about the financial responsibilities that come with tuition. If you have Florida pre-paid like me then they may want you to stay in state rather than pay large amounts of money for out of state tuition or an expensive private college. Learning you can’t go to a school you love because of finances would be devastating.” – Emily Goodman ‘16


Find a school with programs you like – are their classes hands-on? Can you find multiple paths in the field you’re interested in? How are the study abroad or internship opportunities? Will you get to work in labs with all the newest toys? Will your professors be experts in their fields, instead of grad students? Are there research opportunities with professors, even in non-science departments? Most colleges have course rosters anyone can look at – that’s how I found out Cornell University has a course where you raise your own lamb all semester, or one where you taste wines in class! When you find courses and professors that you care about, that make you excited to go to class (I genuinely enjoy my classes here, and that is NOT because they are easy, they aren’t) you will find out that passion can make the worst winters, the saddest party scenes, or the longest distances, completely & absolutely worth it.” – Victoria Emerick ‘15

, Alumni Advice: How to Choose the Best College For You, Academy at the Lakes

To Sum It All Up…

  • Apply everywhere
  • Apply for scholarships ASAP
  • Don’t hold off on applying to an instate school
  • Don’t miss deadlines
  • Test out public transportation
  • Apply to schools out of state
  • Be sure the school is in a place you want to live
  • Consider schools out of the country
  • Don’t just look at English-speaking countries
  • Apply to Bright Futures
  • Follow your heart
  • Go where you want to spend 4 years
  • Don’t get caught up in the small differences
  • Go where you’ll be happy
  • Look into what kind of clubs and organizations the schools have to offer
  • Consider a community college
  • Aim to be the biggest fish in as big a pond as possible
  • Talk to your parents about financial responsibilities
  • Find a school with programs you like



At Academy at the Lakes it is our goal to help each student find the best “fit” for college, academically, socially, and financially. Finding the ideal match means finding a place that helps students fulfill their personal goals for higher education and offers the tools, opportunities, and support for students to successfully take the next step in their lives and careers. Learn more or schedule a tour.

, Alumni Advice: How to Choose the Best College For You, Academy at the Lakes

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