Mar   2019



5 Tips for Students Choosing Their College

Founder, Collegewise

If you’re a senior in the enviable position of deciding between multiple college acceptances, here are a few tips to help you make the right decision for you and your education.

1. Remember that some uncertainty is normal

Some students are sure about their final choice and are ready to sign on the dotted line as soon as the acceptance letter arrives. But many more are not. Some degree of uncertainty is normal for big decisions, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t feel as certain about your choice as your friends do.

Related: My Top Factors for Choosing a College

2. Know your cost before you sign

Make sure you’ve carefully evaluated your financial aid award from each college, so you know the amount of scholarships, loans, and work-study you qualify for. Not all financial aid is free money, and it’s important to not get preemptively swept up in the total figure listed for the award.

Related: Understanding (and Maximizing) Your College Financial Aid Package

3. Check your assumptions

It’s common for families to make evaluative statements about colleges based on assumptions. Some examples include:

  • College X is better for Pre-med than College Y.
  • I should choose this school because it will offer great connections when I graduate.
  • This college will help me get into a good law school.

Are you able to substantiate those statements with facts rather than opinions or hearsay? If not, then you’re working with assumptions that might be flawed…and that’s not a good way to choose a college.

4. Evaluate yourself too

Too many families make the final college decision based on the purported features and benefits of the college without considering if the student will actually take full advantage of them. Choosing a college is a bit like choosing a gym: the offerings are only as valuable as the frequency and vigor with which you take advantage of them.

5. Don’t look for perfection

Much like jobs, relationships, and families, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” college. Every college campus has characteristics that could feasibly be improved, fixed, or otherwise changed. But the benefit of choosing a college that fits you is that you’ll be more likely to take advantage of its strengths and less likely to be affected by its weaknesses.

Comparing supposed pros and cons between your options might help you organize your thinking, but it probably won’t guide you to a clear decision. Instead, consider the purported strengths and weaknesses, then evaluate your ability and likelihood of leaning into the former and working around the latter.

Related: How to Choose a College That’s Right for You

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About Kevin McMullin

Kevin McMullin is the founder and Head of Talent at Collegewise. He is the author of If the U Fits: Expert Advice on Finding the Right College and Getting Accepted and pens at least one entry every day here on his blog. Kevin is a graduate of UC Irvine with majors in English and History (where he answered, “What will you do with those majors?” approximately 783 times), and he has a college counseling certificate from UCLA.

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