Dear Dr. LaScala,
We are just starting the college search and we are hoping it will be easy since my son wants to stay in California. Is there a way to research and compare California colleges?
-California and Loving It!
Dear California and Loving It!
Yes, there is a website where you can do 'one stop shopping' for colleges in California. As always, students should begin a college search by thinking about their interests, skills and goals. They should ask themselves what they're good at, what they like to do, and what they are interested in learning about. This often requires a lot of thought, but can be assisted by the use of a self-inventory of college interests. Fortunately, the same website helps make this possible. Visit www.californiacolleges.edu and click on the "Careers" tab, and then click on the "Determine Which Careers Best Match Your Skills and Interests" and "Career Self-Assessment, Interests, Skills, Values and Personalities" tabs. Complete the self-inventory as thoroughly as you can, returning to it later if you need some time to think about your answers. In this way the inventory can be used as an assessment tool and a guide to your own interests. After you complete the self-inventory you can begin collecting information about colleges themselves.
Think about what you want in your college environment. Be sure to consider the following:
• What size school do you prefer: small, medium, large, super-sized?
• What type of learning environment best fits your style of learning? Do you want small classrooms with lots of attention from professors and classmates, or do you prefer large classes where personal attention is not readily available and you can remain relatively anonymous if you wish?
• Do you want to be in rural, urban or suburban location?
• What sort of climate would you prefer? California is a large state with many different climates. So students should consider this when selecting schools in the state. Think about the kind of weather you enjoy. It snows in Tahoe during the winter months, but the white stuff never falls in Los Angeles. You can enjoy the moist coastal regions of Northern California or attend a college near the desert where it rarely rains at all.
• What other important criteria may help you narrow your search? Do you want to go to a school with a strong Greek system, one with a religious focus, or one with a strong learning disability program? What are your financial constraints? Think through both your needs and your options.
After you get down some of these factors, click on the "Explore Colleges" tab back on the home page to research your higher education options in California. The public system alone consists of 112 California Community Colleges, 23 California State Universities and nine University of California campuses. Last time I counted, there were also 58 private colleges in the state, a good number with a specific religious focus and many secular institutions as well. Explore campus facts to learn the objective data about schools that interest you (like graduation rate and cost of attendance). Then use the student-campus matching tool to help guide and refine your search.
The big plus about limiting yourself to schools in California is that it is not terribly limiting! Among the colleges I just mentioned there is very likely at least several that will fit your needs. Once you have selected a group of candidate schools, you can visit those that interest you more easily and less expensively than traveling out of state. You should make every effort to visit the colleges that interest you the most and learn as much as you can before applying. Visiting campuses remains the best way to decide if a particular college or university is right for you.
Elizabeth LaScala, Ph.D. is an educational consultant and certified college admission advisor. Her goal is to help freshman applicants as well as transfer students and their families understand the admissions process, research college and career options, create a balanced college list and submit strong and cohesive applications. She is familiar with local high schools and has guided three daughters through the college admissions process in addition to more than 300 clients. Dr. LaScala is an active member of NACAC, WACAC, and HECA and earned a certification in College Admissions and Career Planning from University of California at Berkeley. Contact her at (925) 891-4491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.