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            Colleges and universities come in all sorts: small and large, compact or spread out, rural, suburban, or urban, a close community or one with little interaction outside the classroom, and more or less academically rigorous.  The choices are almost endless. 

            Without some way to eliminate some from your list, the number of schools you’re considering might be impossibly long.  But even if you aren’t sure what you want in a school, a desire to play soccer can help narrow your choices.  After all, there will likely be a limited number of schools where you match the coach’s criteria, and if you want to play, your best bet is at a school where the coach is interested in you. 

            But there’s more than soccer to consider when looking at colleges.  So before thinking about what type of a soccer program you want, think about what type of school would suit you best. 

            In addition to the things mentioned above, (size, setting, etc.) you might also consider the following aspects of college life as a way to narrow your list. 

            First, where does soccer rank in importance for you?  Is making a varsity team your highest goal, or is soccer just one of the activities in which you’d like to participate?  Determining where soccer ranks in your priorities will help you eliminate some schools or might cause you to look at schools you wouldn’t otherwise consider.

            Would you prefer a single sex or coed school?

            Are you interested in a specific field of study?  Some majors, (like landscape architecture, food science, or engineering) aren’t offered at all schools.  If you’re set on a specific major, find out which schools offer that program sooner than later.  Keep in mind that your major might change several times before you settle on one, so don’t be too quick to eliminate schools that don’t have a field of study unless you’re sure of your desired career path. 

            Many schools are known for certain programs.  Carnegie Mellon University, for instance, is known for robotics, MIT for computer science, and Kenyon College for English.  If you know what you want to major in, consider schools that are strong in your field and compare their programs to other schools you’re considering as well.

            Would you prefer a public or private school?  While private schools are usually substantially more expensive than public schools, many offer financial aid, so the actual cost may differ as much as you’d think. 

            Are you interested in joining a fraternity or sorority or being at a school where they are a significant part of campus life?

            Who teaches the classes—professors or teaching assistants?

            How close—or far—from home would you like to be?  Keep in mind that airfare can add significantly to your costs, and not all schools are convenient to airports.  Also be aware that airline routes and flights don’t necessarily remain the same.  Our son attends a school that was an hour’s flight away.  During his junior year, the airline added a stop in their route, changing the one-hour flight to a five-hour trip (not counting time spent traveling to and from the airport and waiting in the security line.)  It ended up being faster to drive than fly.

            Are you interested in a school that offers co-ops or internship programs?

            Would you like to attend a school with a religious affiliation?

            Look at entry requirements.  Even if you have yet to take the SAT’s, you likely have an idea of the range in which your scores will fall.  Some soccer coaches have leeway to recruit students who fall outside the range of SAT scores or grade point averages their school normally accepts, but you’ll probably be more successful if you consider schools where the students are of a similar ability level to you. 

            Beyond those considerations, here are a few more suggestions:

            Consider at least a couple of schools you haven’t heard of or know nothing about, but that have the field of study you’re interested in or are located in a location where you’d like to be.  Don’t prejudge a school by its name or discount it because you’ve never heard of it.

            Consider schools beyond those that your friends (and especially a girlfriend or boyfriend) will attend.  College is about expanding your horizons.  It’s not supposed to be an extension of high school.

            Just as there were many levels of soccer programs to choose from during middle and high school, this is the case in college as well.  There are a few schools without a team, but most have a varsity program.  Some also have junior varsity, and many have club teams.  (Some have multiple club teams that travel to other schools.)  Many more have intramural programs.  While you might not make the varsity team at a large competitive Division One school, you can likely play on a club or intramural team there.

            There are other things besides soccer to consider as you look at higher education.  Balancing your soccer goals with everything else you want from your college experience will help you choose the school that’s right for you.

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