Everything Your High Schooler Needs to Know About Applying to College

What should students be aware of when applying to colleges today? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Ben Nelson, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of the Minerva Schools at KGI, on Quora:

There are so many things that students should be aware of when applying to college, it's almost too hard to list. What is campus culture like when it comes to student safety (especially student on student crime)? Will the financial aid provided by the college in the first year be repeated in future years if your family circumstances haven't changed? What is the college's attitude toward forcing you to pay for classes that you have already taken in the past or can take for free from other institutions? What percentage of credits issued (not classes offered) are small versus large? What percentage of small classes are lectures as opposed to active learning seminars? The list is endless.

A good place to start would be to take a step back and think about what college means to the person about to embark on that journey. College isn't just a place to get information; in fact, given MOOCs, Khan Academy, free online resources in general, not to mention just buying textbooks and reading them, paying $250K for college is one of the worst ways to get information.

Similarly, college isn't about having a party for four years, though many students think that it is. Again, if that is the goal, paying that kind of money, not to mention not working at the same time, is a terribly bad investment strategy.

College is really about intellectual development; acquiring frameworks of thinking that you can apply for the rest of your life. When you think about what college to go to, you should first and foremost think about: what do students learn when they go to that college? This is not the same as: what random classes does the college offer? It's about the curriculum, the student experience, the structure that the college provides. Unfortunately, for most colleges and universities, that structure is either completely absent or just exists within your major course of study as opposed to in the general education program.

In short, think about the unique opportunity you have to transform as a human being, an opportunity you will never again have in your life in such profound ways, and is the institution aligned to your success or do their practices suggest that they are more concerned with other goals?

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