Decision time: Which college will it be?
You’ve completed all your applications, waited patiently for those acceptance letters, and now you’re faced with the ultimate decision – which college to attend next fall. In case you haven’t noticed, the national college decision deadline (May 1) is right around the corner. This means you’ll need to make what could be one of the biggest decisions of your life in just a few short days. How’s that for senior-year stress? First of all, congratulations on being accepted to college. Now, relax and take a deep breath. It may seem like your choice will either make or break your future, but it really isn’t that monumental. To be honest, you could be happy at any of the colleges on your list. Crazy thought, right? The truth is that each one of the colleges you applied to had something that interested you, so you’re going to be just fine no matter where you land this fall. Unfortunately, you can only pick one, so how do you decide? Here are some things to consider when determining which college will be the best overall fit for you.
Many seniors may be eager to get as far away from home as possible, but you may want to think twice about moving clear across the country. Staying closer to home has many benefits, like mom popping by for a quick shopping trip or catching up with high school pals who are also in the area. If you do venture away from your home state, keep in mind that the seasonal temperatures could be very different – some are downright frigid and others will leave you melting on the pavement. Be sure to pack accordingly! There’s also the area’s culture (or lack thereof) and value systems to consider. If you have a very liberal spirit, attending college in an ultra-conservative town could be problematic. Don’t forget to check out the transportation systems, too. If you like to explore, you’ll need a place that offers ample ways to get around both on and off campus. You may not want to spend the next four to six years stuck in your dorm room, so be sure your college’s location suits your lifestyle and has plenty to offer.
Yes, college is expensive, but that doesn’t mean you should spend the rest of your life paying for it. Be a savvy shopper and crunch the numbers to determine which college will give you’re a better return on your investment. This not only includes the typical costs, such as tuition, fees, housing, and books, but also money you’ll need for transportation and other living expenses. Don’t forget to factor in study abroad opportunities, as well. Once you deduct the financial aid each school is offering, compare the bottom line of each school to determine how much student loan debt you may end up with at graduation. You can visit eStudentLoan.com and get an estimate of how much you will need to pay each month to cover that debt, which may help you reduce your college choices.
3. Career Path
If you have an idea of what you want to do in the future, finding the right fit could help you get there faster. Be sure the school has the specific major you are interested in (and some back-up choices, too!), a good internship program, and a solid alumni network. You should also ask about on-campus resources for students, such as free résumé and job placement assistance. Some colleges even offer accelerated degree programs, which can reduce your overall cost of attendance.
When All Else Fails…Go With Your Gut!
If you find yourself wavering between two or three choices, you may want to consider taking another visit to each campus. Find a quiet spot in the quad and watch the students going by. Can you picture yourself in that crowd? Visit with a professor or sit in on a class. Do you find the conversation engaging? Finally, and yes this does sound a bit silly, go to the campus bookstore and pick up a T-shirt, mug, or some other item with the college’s logo on it. Take a selfie with each and post them. Your friends and family are bound to add their opinions. When you find yourself defending one college more than the others, you’ve made your choice. There really is no wrong or right answer - just know that wherever you end up it’s going to be great!