Writing down your goals makes you more likely to achieve them. The act of putting goals down on paper brings them to life in a way that keeping them in your mind never will.

When it comes to your ideal college experience, you certainly want those dreams to become reality. It makes sense that you would do everything you can to make that happen. That includes sitting down to describe exactly what the ideal college experience looks like for you.

Your wish list can be orderly with bullet points or it can be an abstract sketch, so long as it represents the things that matter the most to you about college.

After you’ve made your list, keep it handy while you are researching colleges. If you spot ones that match up with your list, flag them high priority.

You should also share your wish list with your college counselor. An experienced high school or private college counselor will be able to point you toward colleges that fit your criteria.

Give these questions some consideration as you consider what belongs on your college wish list.

    Campus Life

What does your dorm look like? Perhaps you envision a modern apartment on the ninth floor, or perhaps you want a charming old building with lots of character—or even legends.

Do you have roommates or suitemates? College dorms come in all shapes and sizes, and the people you share a living space with can become lifelong friends or sour a semester. Consider whether you want to live with a stranger or someone you already know.

Where is your college located? Having to take a flight home on winter and summer breaks is a lot different than being able to drive home in an afternoon. Some people could never imagine being too far from relatives, while others want to experience extreme independence.

    Community

What are your friends like? Finding friends from your major, from your extracurriculars like clubs or hobbies, or from your dorm is important to think about. Determine whether you are seeking the friendship of primarily like-minded people or those who have completely different perspectives than you do—and remember that new experiences are coming your way no matter your exact expectations.

Does the campus have a high diversity? Whether your campus is made up of mainly women, affluent people, or those studying STEM fields will have an effect on the community both on and off campus. Think about how closely you may resemble the typical student at your college.

How large is the student population? You may be seeking a graduating class of 1,300 or 13,000. Have an ideal student population in mind.

    Classes

What are your classes like? The answer to this question is pretty important and can be extremely varied. Do you envision yourself in large lecture halls or small classrooms? Whether you imagine labs nearly every weeknight or group discussions about abstract concepts, you need to describe the environment that you most want for class.

Do you want to be anonymous? At some universities, your professors will never know your name and you’ll walk in quietly without anyone noticing. At others, you might have the same professor for most of your major courses—and you won’t be able to hide in the back.

How rigorous of a program is your major? You might be aiming for valedictorian at an elite school, or you might already be thinking of a graduate degree. Consider how hard you want your classes to be when you’re making your choices and how that will impact your life outside of the classroom.

    Extracurriculars

After classes, what do you do?Whether you imagine yourself going to the library to study, spending the whole afternoon practicing on the fields, or hanging out with friends, you need to explore the options for extracurricular activities at your school.

Do you belong to one or more clubs? Your ideal college experience could be filled with Greek letters or a tiny theater group. Sometimes, participation in a club or organization is expected, which is something you should find out ahead of time.

What kind of campus culture and events do you want? There are so many events every day that you never have to leave campus. There are several quiet days a week when you can spend your time how you please. There are local off-campus attractions that you want to explore. Each campus provides a different experience.

 

While your college experience will not be exactly the way you expect—it will probably surprise you with even more options than you first realized—you can create a college life that will fulfill most or all of your goals.

Making a wish list now will help you identify what your best college experience looks like.