how to properly index a varchar column that won’t use LIKE

I’ve been experimenting with EXPLAIN and noticed that the row count was big for our query so I tried adding an index to the VARCHAR column. First I added FULLTEXT but it ended up just making the query longer so I checked it with EXPLAIN and it was still showing all the rows. but when I tried to do EXPLAIN on the same table but using another indexed column which is an INT the row count was only 1.