By Katie Blackstone
As I near the end of my junior year of high school, the big question of college looms closer and closer. Before I began searching, I was unsure of what I wanted in a school. There were so many factors to consider, and I was beginning to feel overwhelmed. But after getting the chance to tour some schools, I learned what I’m looking for and began to narrow down which aspects are most important to me.
So far, I’ve gone on three college tours, including a tour of Webster University. Some had very nice qualities and some … not so much. From this, I’ve realized there are two main things I look for in schools: education and energy.
Education is obviously pretty important. I’m spending tons of money just to get an education. Might as well make sure that education is good, right?
Personally, I’m focused on a career that involves media and technology. Technology is always improving. There’s hardly a week that goes by where something new isn’t put on the market, making it a high demand, high stakes job.
The first college I looked at was said to be one of the top journalism schools in the country. I was interested at first, but it turns out their digital side of media was lacking.
I want to learn more than just “how to write a story.” Media and journalism is changing quickly; simple print stories aren’t going to cut it anymore.
I realized I wanted a school that was up-to-date on where the workforce is headed. News stations are relying on people who can incorporate video, photography and other types of media along with their general reporting.
I was even more disappointed with another college’s communications department. They offered very little publications for their students to work on. I wanted hands-on experience, not just instruction, before I was thrown into the “real world.”
Webster, on the other hand, allows students in communications to immediately be hands-on during their freshman year — unlike the larger schools that wait until students are upperclassmen.
After discussing college searches with some friends, another worry was brought to light. We’re only teenagers, what if we change our mind? What if we realize halfway through our college years that we don’t want to become an actor, a businessperson or a reporter?
With this in mind, I also realized I wanted a school with some “wiggle room.” I wanted a school with a broader range of education offered, both within a department and school, and throughout the university in general. That way, in four years, I won’t be confined to the decision I made as a 16-year-old.
Though Webster is a smaller liberal arts school, it still offers a variety of majors anywhere from theatre to business.
Of course, anyone can say the quality of education is the most important thing to them when college searching. After touring some colleges, I realized there was another vital aspect of school that I personally was looking for — its sense of community and camaraderie.
When I toured one college, it was a Saturday and the first warm day after winter weather. And there wasn’t a single student in sight. I even asked our tour guide, “Where is everybody?” And she responded, “Oh, most people like to stay inside and sleep on the weekends…”
I know that college students like to sleep in late; I do, too. But I realized that I wanted some kind of vibe and energy on campus. I wanted unique clubs that are constantly coming up with something fun to do, crazy activities planned around campus and a community full of energetic and interesting people.
From what I’ve learned from my tour at Webster and from its students, Webster has a great community full of fun, like Humans v. Zombies. Also, the quaint community of Webster Groves makes the campus even more interesting.
I also didn’t know this before I began searching. But after looking at a very large campus and some small campuses, I realized the best campus for me was a small, close and supportive community.
Although college is 18 months away, I’m glad I started searching early. Before I started, I was completely confused about what I wanted in a school. But touring revealed what was most important to me. I’ll be more prepared once it’s time to make the final decision.