How to choose the right college: Advice from a student who found her place

By Jordan Weig
Nikki, second on the left - bottom row, shows off her school pride sporting dual-colored complete face paint.
Nikki, second on the left - bottom row, shows off her school pride sporting dual-colored complete face paint.

Eighteen-year-old Nikki Machado packed her bags to move from California to Colorado in 2014 to study Mechanical Engineering at CSU. The months leading up to this long drive through the mountains were filled with college searches, campus visits, and plenty of questions.

Now almost four years later, Nikki is embracing CSU and everything it has to offer. She couldn’t be more pleased with where her college search took her.

A current student myself, I sat down with Nikki to discuss which questions are most important to ask during the college search process. She also told me how these questions helped her find the right school.

3 questions to ask yourself

#1: Who am I?

Nikki spends time with her brand-new friend Wendy in St. Petersburg, Russia. She participated in a trip led by her student organization.
Nikki spends time with her brand-new friend Wendy in St. Petersburg, Russia. She participated in a trip led by her student organization.

I know this sounds cliché, but this is the most important question you will ask yourself in the college search.

Observe yourself. Take notes of what things make you happy. What kinds of clubs and organizations do you want to get involved in? What kind of person do you want to become? What are your future goals? What kind of weather do you enjoy?

“CSU is the type of school that’s big, but feels small. There’s so many clubs and activities that you can join, and it’s surprisingly easy to form a tight-knit community,” Nikki said.

#2: What are my priorities?

Nikki hikes Grey Rock trail 30 minutes away from the CSU campus.

Some common priorities include people, variety, diversity, resources, community, opportunities, academics, and job prospects. Does the school that you’re looking at fit with these priorities?

For Nikki, her top priority was getting a hands-on education. She also wanted to have a close community and to be in California. CSU exceeded her expectations and changed one of her priorities the day that she visited.

“I had never met such nice people.” Nikki recalled. “Even though it was the biggest school I had applied to, everyone was high-fiving the tour guide. I knew right when I was leaving CSU that I didn’t want to go to any schools in California. CSU was going to be my new home.”

#3: What are my concerns?

Nikki turns on an Acura NSX at an engineering event after meeting with Honda research and development.
Nikki turns on an Acura NSX at an engineering event after meeting with Honda research and development.

College is a big step, so it is understandable to have fears, concerns, and hesitations. Ultimately, fear can hold us back in the college search process. What can you do to take action and address these concerns? Who can you talk to about it?

For Nikki, her biggest concern was being out-of-state; she was worried about the cost and about living far away from her family.

Her first step in dealing with that concern was to get in contact with her engineering advisors at CSU. She asked them if she could learn more about opportunities that would help her financially. Faculty members personally helped her find scholarships and apply for the engineering co-op program, which will allow her to graduate with almost two years of experience.

With the co-op, she was able to work with Cummins in Indiana and will work with Honda Research and Development next semester.

“I wish I would have been more open-minded to out of state schools and realized that there are so many perks to living out of state, including personal growth and experiences,” Nikki said.

Biggest Takeaway?

Overall, our biggest piece of advice for the college search process is to get connected. CSU has admissions counselors who are available to answer questions, address concerns, and connect you with faculty.

Jordan Weig
Author: Jordan Weig

Jordan is a current student from Montrose, Colorado, who will graduate in 2018 with a degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology. She loves drinking coffee, going outside, and laughing a little too hard at puns.