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Students should do their homework when picking a college

High school seniors can come up with all sorts of reasons for choosing a certain college.

Hot girls or cute boys. Getting as far away as possible from Mom and Dad. Being near friends. Staying close to home.

But choosing a college for those reasons can mean a miserable four years — if the student lasts that long at Being Near Friends U.

"The process of choosing the best college for you requires that you identify what is important to you," says Barbra Stewart, president and founder of College and Career Connection and college counselor for Bishop Gorman High School.

Stewart says students should weigh several factors: location, size, learning style, academic programs, resident life, extracurricular activities, career service department and cost.

Bob Smyth, college counselor for Coronado High School, also lists things students should consider when choosing a college: degrees offered, academic reputation, the size of the school, activities or sports.

Smyth says students must make sure the degree and major they desire are offered at the colleges they select and should not limit themselves to one or two schools.

"I recommend applying to eight colleges: four selected in hopes of scholarships and Merritt (scholarship) money, two schools you are guaranteed to get in, and two ‘reach schools,’ " he says.

But narrowing the field to eight is not an easy task, let alone settling on one school.

"There are so many colleges," says Christina Tin, a former resident of Henderson who is a freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno. "It was so hard choosing one college. I considered UNLV, University of Texas and Boston."

CollegeBoard.com lists more than 2,000 four-year colleges in the United States. Throw in more than 1,600 two-year colleges, and it is easy to see how a high school senior could get flustered.

But help is available.

The Clark County School District holds college fairs for prospective college students.

"I have gone to many college fairs because I figure the more I know about all the colleges out there, the better off I’ll be in making my final decision," says Curtis Wheeler, a senior at Coronado. "I know I want to go out of state for college, so at fairs, I’ll find out information about colleges in California, Arizona and even some on the East Coast."

There also are plenty of Web sites and books to help.

One of the most prominent books, Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges, says, "Act positive, be optimistic, know you have plenty of choices."

Barron’s says that searching for a college is really not too hard: "The vast majority of colleges admit more than 70 percent of those who apply … but remember, sometimes even qualified students get denied for certain reasons."

Once students do their homework and figure out what matters most to them, the choice could become clear.

"Closeness to my family and location became the most important factors for me," Tin says. "And, based on those factors, I decided to go to Reno."

If there happens to be cute boys, hot girls or high school friends going to the same school, consider it a bonus.

"The process isn’t choosing a college," Stewart says. "The process is about choosing a college that’s right for you."

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