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Picking a Colleges Amongst the Thousands

There are so many colleges to choose from: how can you possibly figure out which one is the best for you? It's a task that can be daunting at best, paralyzing at worst. But not to worry: this week, the college expert Douglas Bennett from Kaplan graced the pages of Newsweek to shed some insight on picking out the right college to suit your needs.

It's really a lot more simple than the college application frenzy makes it out to be: rather than stressing about acceptance and putting all of your eggs in the big name Ivy League basket, Bennett urges prospective students to first stand back, take a deep breath, and take a good look at who they want to be in college. "Simply put," he says, "you are the one who is going to educate yourself. You are the one who is going to have to do the reading, complete the labs, write the papers, and take the tests. A college won't and can't educate you. It can only provide a setting for you to educate yourself. Will you choose to work hard? Will you choose to take initiative? Will you choose to be responsible? Will you choose to act with integrity? Will you choose to feel affirmed by your successes and to learn from your failures?" If you can say yes to all of these questions, according to Bennett the college stress should melt away, as options open up at the fact that you should do well anywhere.

After that, things get a lot easier. By breaking down criteria into easy-to-focus-on chunks, a clearer picture should form. Are you more interested in a two-year vocational school, or a four-year bachelor degree? Of the colleges you are considering, which ones capture your attention the most? Which ones reflect your style, both learning and personal, and make you feel at home? Which college has a student-to-professor ratio and level of communication that you find the most comfortable? Which college has a realistic price range that falls within your acceptable budget? (And when it comes to this one do your homework because, according to Bennett, it can be tricky: "Some colleges have lower published (or "sticker") prices but, once you enroll there, turn out to have additional fees and costs. And there may not be much financial aid available. Other colleges have very high, even scary, sticker prices, but also provide a great deal of financial aid so that the actual cost of attendance is much lower.") Of course, making sure the college of your choice is a fully accredited school is vital.

But the most important thing to take away from the article is this -- as long as you are determined and studious, you can likely succeed just about anywhere. But the best chance you have might not necessarily be at the most "well-known" of colleges, but at the college that is a best reflection of you, and all that you can be.

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