Choosing a college is hard enough, but choosing a college over one that is strikingly similar is another level of difficulty. Here’s what you should consider if you are having a hard time deciding between two final college choices.
The first step is determining affordability. Oftentimes people think that public schools will not be much of a financial burden, but that may not be the case. Major public universities, such as Missouri State University and the University of Iowa, are preparing to face budget cuts. States are trying to account for budget gaps, and universities are easy victims because their losses can be made up through increases in tuition and fees, according to the Wall Street Journal.
With rising college prices, you need to understand how you can pay for college. Questions I asked myself included the following:
- Do I want to take out loans? If so, will I be able to repay them in a way that I am comfortable with?
- Am I going to pursue education after my undergraduate degree? If so, will my graduate studies occur immediately after my undergraduate career or a little later?
- Are my parents willing to help me out with the cost?
- Can I handle having a job while being in school?
Comparing your financial aid awards is an important piece of this puzzle. If you really can’t decide between two schools, it may be wise to choose the one that offered the better aid package for you and your family.
If financial aid isn’t a deciding factor, there are many other ways to make this tough choice. Another important aspect to consider is the opportunity to grow as a person and as a professional. Great student organizations allow you to see if you will feel a connection toward the school. Furthermore, a good internship program or other career-orientated activities can ensure a thriving future after college.
When I was visiting schools, I also tried to look at the people. When I visited my current school, the people seemed extremely friendly. In fact, the tour that I took at Quinnipiac University was the only school that I left a tour guide evaluation form for. You will be making friends and potentially dating people at your school, so it is a subtle but wise factor to consider. Having good friends is quite helpful when you are stressed over finals. By staying overnight at the school, you can understand the social climate even better. Maybe you will see that the two schools you are stuck on are not that similar after all.
While clubs and friends are important, you ultimately go to college to learn. A critical part of the learning process is the professors. How personable are the faculty? How engaged are the current students? Is the material presented in a preferable manner? You can find this out by sitting in a class.
When I sat in a class at one of the schools I visited, I did not like how there were so many students. I felt like I was not important and that I would become just another face in a crowd. But if you prefer lecture-style classes (or if you plan to skip a lot…which you shouldn’t!), perhaps a bigger class is perfect for your needs. Also consider campus size. A close-knit campus may not only be beneficial for your grades but for your time as well. When you are rushing for class, a huge campus may not be the best option.
Then there are the extra characteristics, which do not make or break the deal, but definitely can put a school in a better light. For me, I liked that my school had a free tutoring service because all the other schools that I looked at charged people for tutoring.
The lesson is: compare everything. Nothing is too tiny of a factor, because you will be spending quite a bit of time at your college. Weigh the positives against the negatives.
The only way you will find out which school is best for you is by being proactive. Conduct research and immerse yourself in the environment, because the goal is to avoid transferring.
Related: Top National Decision Day Advice
How did you make your final college choice? Share your deciding factor(s) in the comments!