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College 101

Start with a Blank Slate
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

Pick a spot on a white wall. Stare at it. Let your mind go completely blank. Think about absolutely nothing, let all of your worries and concerns simply vanish. You are getting very sleepy. Now, when we snap our fingers, you will awake, and when you hear this bell, you will begin dancing the samba and will have an irresistible urge to eat a Pringle.

Okay, so you don’t have to let your mind go that blank. But when it comes to narrowing down your list of schools, it does help to start fairly fresh. Throw away those preconceived notions. Don’t worry about where your great grand-pappy went to college. (That placed closed down 35 years ago anyway.)

Abandoned building
"Oh, how the great has fallen."


There are 4,500 colleges and universities in the U.S. If each of those colleges were a song, you would need about 30 gigs to store them. (And if you don’t go to college, you’ll need about 30 gigs just to make rent.) You know how hard it is deciding what song you’re going to listen to for the next four minutes, and now your task is to decide what school you want to attend for the next four years. The last thing you want to do is hit shuffle.

We want you to end up at a school where you can be happy and successful. Because you’re so much nicer to be around when you’re happy.

To accomplish that feat, we propose that you enter into this process like a naked babe in the woods. Not actually naked, just with an open mind. Let’s keep this PG, people.

Especially if you're an international student applying to a college in the states, make sure you do thorough research of potential schools. It’s possible your high school counselors doesn’t know a ton about out-of-country schools and, trust us, there are many more schools than the famous Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Emerson. Or, “HYPE,” as we like to call them collectively. (Okay, so Emerson kinda snuck in there, but we needed it to make the acronym work. Sue us.)

Dancing Baby
"That’s right, keep your pants on."


Yes, it is very important that you understand What the Heck’s Out There and What’s in a Name as you go about the process of Generating Your Big List. To do all of this, you need to first determine What You Want and What You Need in a school. Just don’t be too needy. Most schools consider that a huge turn-off.

But here’s the rub: if you have already decided exactly where you want to go, one of two things is true:

1. You have gone through the entire process with Shmoop. In this case, congratulations, but you don’t need to be reading this page. You’re ready to start Applying. Jump out of the nest, little bird, and fly like the wind.

2. You are blindly attached to a school because:

1.     You like the name

2.     You have seen how awesome their basketball players can dunk

3.     Your mom told you to go there

4.     It’s been your dream school since you were five

…or some other silly reason.

Wanna hear a better idea? Erase every school name from your brain. Really get in there and scrub that puppy clean.

Let your needs and wants — with the help of a College Search Engine — generate a list of schools that matches those parameters. Then… guess what? If the school you were originally drawn to pops up on that list, end of story. You belong there.

But if that school doesn’t make an appearance… let it go.

Instead, check out the schools that do pop up. You might find a school that is perfect for you. And not just perfect for… your mom.

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