How to Decide Which College is Right for You
Over the next few weeks, most high school seniors will learn their fate as college acceptance (and rejection) letters start to arrive. For some students, the choice will be an easy one, especially if they are accepted by their first choice school or only receive one acceptance letter. For the majority of students, however, deciding where to go next fall many be a little more complicated. The choices made over the next few months will be very important and could have a direct impact on the direction students take over the next few years. Much thought and consideration should go into the college decision process, so it’s important that students use both their hearts and their minds when making a final choice. Here are a few things students should consider when choosing their college.
Academics: Students should review the course catalog and speak with admissions officers to verify their major (or anticipated major) is offered at the college where they ultimately intend to enroll. Some students may not have chosen a major during the application process, but may now have a narrower focus for their anticipated choice of career. Students should also consider which minors and elective courses are offered, especially if they have an interest in a subject that may not be offered at some colleges.
Personal Needs: Students could be spending the next four or more years at their chosen college, so the campus culture and student population should definitely factor into the decision. If students prefer milder temperatures and a more laid back atmosphere, enrolling in a highly competitive school in the Northeast may not be the best idea. Those who prefer a more intimate teaching environment may want to focus on smaller schools or even consider starting at a community college. Looking at all the factors, including learning style, social, political and spiritual needs, will ensure students make an informed decision.
Finances: Students will find that colleges offer vastly different financial aid packages, so comparing the offers side-by-side may help in making a final decision. Students should consider all costs, including travel, meals, housing, tuition, fees, books and more. Once students know the total cost of attendance, they can factor in any financial aid that may have been offered and determine what out-of-pocket expenses they will need to cover. Although it may seem like a good idea to take out student loans, students should think carefully about the amount of debt they will incur (and how long it will take to pay off) before committing to any school.
School Teams: Many students fall in love with a college because they have grown up following a team on television. Even if the college has a stadium full of national championship pennants, it’s definitely not a good enough reason for students to make that college their home, unless they are actually playing on the team.
Significant Other: All too often, students make the hasty decision of enrolling at a college simply because their boyfriend or girlfriend attends the same school. In all honesty, attending the same college will not ensure their relationship endures. Instead, it may cause students to hold back from exploring other opportunities, meeting new people and trying new things. If the relationship fails (and it usually does), it may become a very uncomfortable situation for everyone involved.
Family Ties: Parents can often place extreme pressure on students to attend their alma mater, which can be unfair to students. Those who are not interested in carrying on the family tradition should make a point of speaking with their parents to explain their decision and what they feel is best for them. It may not be a pleasant conversation, but students should have the right to attend a college that best suits their needs.
Students may find that the best way to decide where they will put down roots this fall is by taking a visit to (or revisiting) the campuses on their ‘accepted’ list. If possible, students should sit in on some classes, shadow a current student, and spend time exploring the campus to get a better picture of how they might fit in. Students should also keep in mind that their decision may have consequences, such as loss of financial support, especially if a parent is expecting a different outcome. Ultimately, students have the final say on where they will enroll, but that decision should not be made too quickly. Students should take the time to consider all options before saying 'yes' to a campus.