December 2021

How do I pick the college that is right for me? How can I make the most of college once I get there? Here, four students from colleges in Minnesota share their advice for high school seniors, as well as students who are beginning their college search.

Nassimi El Kasmi ’22

Concordia College, Moorhead
Finance Intern, Sanford Health
Nassimi El Kasmi

“If you want a specific major, look for schools that are offering that major. Ask about the professors, ask about grading, ask if professors are there for students. Is there a career center? Are there counselors you can talk to if you have issues? Look for on-campus resources that can help students succeed in life at college and also prepare for the real world. You want to make sure that you’re going to be in a school that is not only good academically but also a school that can engage students in their community and off campus as well.”

“The ‘right’ school for you is a tricky concept. You might think a school is the best choice for you, but three months later, it’s not what you thought it was. It’s all about your mindset. If you come with the mindset of ‘this is my goal in school,’ I don’t think you will have as many issues as you would if you were simply focused on whether or not you like the school.”

“The pandemic changed a lot of college norms, including classes. Some of your classes will be online, others will probably be fully in person and some others may be blended. College life for now is not going to be the ‘traditional’ college life. Just try to make the most of it. Go to activities if you can. You may be required to wear a mask; wear the mask. This is our world right now. Time goes by quickly, so don’t make wearing a mask a barrier to pursuing opportunities.”

Jonathon Krull ’22

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Vice-President for Public Affairs, Student Senate
Jonathon Krull

“Don’t be afraid to look outside an hour radius of your house. There’s lots of great options out there.”

“Tour as many colleges as you can. Get a feel for the environment and sit in on a class if you can. That’s beneficial, because then you can meet professors who you may have throughout your college career. I toured a handful of colleges, and Saint Mary’s was the one that jumped out to me just based on coming to the campus.”

“When you’re choosing a college, look at what you can participate in, such as the clubs they have and different activities. A lot of schools have great websites that can help you figure out what they have going on.”

“Make the most out of every club that you can. Go to a meeting or two or an activity and get a feel for the club. Be as engaged as you can. At Saint Mary’s you pay a student activities fee, and that money goes to the clubs. You’re paying for it; you might as well use it.”

“Take risks and join new clubs that you think you might like. I never thought I’d be in Yoga Club, and here I am—the vice president and treasurer and loving yoga now. So take leaps, try new things, and you might find a new hobby.”

Ben Menke ’22

Gustavus Adolphus College
Co-president, Gustavus Adolphus Student Senate
Ben Menke

“When you’re putting together the list of colleges that you’re considering, make sure to consult multiple sources of information. Your parents give great advice, but this is your decision to make.”

“Each school has information on tuition and fees, academics and extracurricular activities. It’s important to look for the information that is valuable to you. Spend some serious time doing research on schools, because you don’t want to make a choice this important and not have the research behind it.”

“The pandemic is a tragedy, and it is in the best interest of everyone involved to stay safe and keep others safe, but that shouldn’t prevent you from having a meaningful college experience. I don’t think we give enough credit to how important it is to feel like you’re part of a community. Find community in whatever ways are available to you. During my junior year, I decided to run for student senate co-president in order to meet people. Putting yourself out there, even virtually, is a good way to find community.”

“Being in high school during the pandemic can take away a lot of opportunities to prepare for college. I recommend taking it easy when you first start college, adjusting yourself to the pace of college life, because the pandemic has made it more difficult to do that.”

Ayana Smith-Kooiman ’22

Macalester College
Community Engagement Officer, Macalester College Student Government
Ayana Smith-Kooiman

“There’s a lot of pressure in the world to choose colleges based on outside influences. It’s your education, and it’s going to be your life for the next four years, so definitely make sure that your college choice is for you.”

“Don’t rule out any place just because you feel like the money won’t be there. I have a full-tuition scholarship. Look at schools and see what the financial aid options are. Sometimes it will surprise you.”

“Get in tune with what you want your college experience to look like. When I was looking at colleges I wanted to be in a city, I wanted it to be small and I wanted it to have more diversity, and that led me to Macalester.”

“My plug for a liberal arts education is this: It’s fun to be able to go to different departments and take classes because they look interesting. You get to learn so many different things and connect the threads throughout the disciplines.”

“As we’re in a phase of the pandemic where we may be more comfortable being around people who are vaccinated, your social battery is not going to be what it used to be. I’m an extrovert, and I definitely need to be home more often now. But in order to get involved and break that bubble of isolation, you need to show up to the programs and events that are happening on campus. You’ll meet new people who may have similar interests to your own.”

By Kate Norlander