Choosing a College: How to Find the Right Social Fit

College is a huge investment that will help determine your career path and financial security. Of course, you want to pick an institution that has the right educational programs and opportunities. But college is more than textbooks and midterms. It’s your future home and community. And so the school you choose, in addition to offering a great education, should also be a good social fit! 

You will be spending the next four years of your life at the college or university of your choice. No one wants to pick a school that will leave them feeling out of place or socially isolated. That’s why, in today’s post, we’ll be discussing ways to pick a college that is the right social fit for you.   

1. Research and Consider The Location of Your School

Your college’s location will have a big impact on your social life. So, start by doing some research, and asking yourself a few important questions:

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  • Do you want to spend your free time in a more metropolitan area or somewhere that is surrounded by nature? 
  • What about mobility? Can you drive around easily?, Is it easy to get around on foot, bike, or public transit? 
  • Do you want to live closer to home or explore a different region of the country (or even of the world)?

Also, consider the size of your school. Smaller colleges located in a small town will have a completely different social atmosphere than a bigger school in a larger city. Certain locations will simply have more social activities available. For instance, if you want to go to concerts, shop at larger malls, have plenty of dining options, and enjoy a vibrant nightlife, a campus near a city might be better for you.

On the other hand, campus locations centered in more rural or suburban regions might offer a more laid-back atmosphere, especially for students who want a more personal connection to their peers and the area. And keep in mind, colleges generate their own social scenes. Less urban schools will likely have more on-campus or in-dorm social opportunities than schools located near urban nightlife. 

Some students will want to move farther from home to see a different side of the country. Other students want something that is similar to their hometown. Just think about these things as you make a decision!

There is no single correct location for your college experience. Whether you choose a suburban, urban, or rural school to settle down in is up to you. Again, it depends on your preference and what you are looking for socially at school. 

2. See What Extracurriculars and Student Organizations Are Available

Your academic goals and achievements are critical to your college experience. But what you do outside the classroom is also important for your self-development. Joining student organizations and other extracurriculars will enrich your social life in college and help you make friends on campus, so make sure that the college you choose has activities and student organizations that appeal to you.

Think about the following things:

  • What clubs or activities do you want to participate in? 
  • Are you musical, or do you like to make art? 
  • Do you want to learn more about history or a specific culture? 
  • Are you interested in community service or advocating for marginalized groups?  
  • Do you like spending time in nature or doing activities outside?
  • What about sports and intramural teams? Is it important for you to live an active lifestyle on campus and be on a sports team?

Each student will have their own preferences for student activities and clubs, and some colleges will have more opportunities for you to join student organizations that fit your interests. We suggest doing a little online research to see what your dream schools have to offer.

3. Pick A School That’s The Right Size For You

Students who want a more active social life may enjoy attending a bigger school. Larger schools naturally have more social opportunities—more clubs, organizations, and activities—for students. On the other hand, students who want a more balanced mix of academics and socializing may do better at a smaller school. 

Larger schools may have a lot to do, explore, and experience, but the atmosphere can be more bustling and impersonal. Smaller schools can be more personal. It’s way easier to get to know people and make friends in smaller classes where you know people’s names.

4. Assess The Values of Your Chosen School

Depending on your upbringing and personal values, you might prefer one school over another. Each college has different values that you need to consider. This is important because your social life can be negatively affected if you pick a school that doesn’t align with your beliefs. 

For instance, if you care about being in a diverse, inclusive environment, make sure that other students and staff share these values. You can look at your school’s website and social media pages to assess their values. 

Conversely, some students might prefer to attend a school with religious leanings, while others might want to attend a secular institution. 

Students should ask themselves these questions to figure out if their chosen school is the right option. If your campus and the surrounding area go against your fundamental beliefs, it could be difficult to thrive socially and academically.

5. Visit The School In Person and Explore The Campus Culture

Finally, if you really want to understand what campus life is like and whether a school is the right social fit, consider visiting in person. A campus visit—particularly an overnight stay—can provide you with an opportunity to interact with students, professors, and the local community. 

Whether you want to sit in on classes, go to student events, or just wander the surrounding area, this can be a great chance to see what student life is all about. We recommend observing students on campus and asking plenty of questions if you go on a tour. See what people do in their free time. Do they like to go to sporting events, parties, and other large gatherings? Are there particular areas where students like to study and hang out? Try to imagine yourself on campus and ask whether it feels like a comfortable social environment. 

If you can’t visit campus or you don’t have enough time to ask all your questions, go to online forums and see what students say about campus life and the social scene. This can also give you a good idea of what your dream school will be like socially and whether it’s a good fit.

Across the board, the college admissions landscape is changing. It’s important that your family create a strategic plan going into this admissions season based on your desired outcomes. Our advisors at HelloCollege are highly trained to identify student goals and create a path to getting in.  Your family needs a smart plan! HelloCollege can help.

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The Hello College Team

HelloCollege CEO Andrea Emmons has spent the last 15 years guiding students and families across the country on their path to college. Andrea knows the profound impact proactive college planning has on the lives of students and is passionate about mentoring families through the process.
Kevin Krebs - Founder of HelloCollege

About Our Founder

Kevin Krebs

Inspired by his parents, Kevin’s journey from a first-gen, diverse, low-income background to Northwestern University shaped him. After experiencing challenges, including student loan debt, he founded HelloCollege and has spent the last 25 years helping students successfully navigate college admissions.

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