You’ve done all the heavy lifting of applying to college. You thought all the hard work was finished after you hit the submit button on your applications. Who knew the most difficult part would be actually choosing where you want to go in the fall? People tell you you’ll just get that feeling for which school to choose. But what if your decision isn’t that clear? First, don’t panic. Almost everyone faces this issue at some point in the college process. Luckily there’s still some time before May 1, the final deadline for submitting a deposit. Here are five things to consider if you’re stuck on choosing a school.
1. The high school–to–college transition
Going away to college is a huge transition, and there’s no getting around it. You’re leaving a community and lifestyle you’ve had for the majority of your life. You’ll be away from your family, friends, and pets while trying to navigate the next chapter of your life. This is hard for everyone, emotionally and academically. Think about what kind of environment you need to be in while you transition. If you’ve spent extended time away from home before, think about how you handled that and what kind of support system you needed. If you’re someone who’s going to need familiar faces at your college or the ability to go home to your dog at least once a month, maybe going to a college that’s a plane ride away isn’t the best idea.
2. Picturing your life there
All your colleges seem amazing when you’re touring, but what happens when the honeymoon phase wears off? Colleges put their best foot forward on open house and admitted students days, so sometimes you need to dig a little deeper to get the whole picture. Try to talk to current students about what they don’t like on campus and see if those things would bother you. Will you be able to make friends with the types of people that go there and feel comfortable in the social scene? Will you be happy with the weather and things to do in the area? Remember that you’ll be in that environment for four or five years!
3. The affordability factor
As much as you shouldn’t let finances get in the way of your happiness, money is an important factor in choosing a college. If the school you want to go to will put you in over $100,000 worth of debt, maybe you need to weigh the benefits of the school versus the costs you will accrue. However, just because you get a full ride or substantial scholarship to a school does not mean you’re obligated to go there. Sometimes paying a little more to go to a school you’ll thrive at is totally worth it! Make sure to talk with your family to be certain you’re on the same page about how much they’re willing to contribute to your education and how much you’re expected to pay. Consider money in your decision, but don’t let it be the bottom line.
4. Your friends' and family's opinions
Sometimes our friends and family know us better than we know ourselves. Tell them your college options plus the advantages and disadvantages to each of them, and ask what they think would be best for you. They can help you take a step back from the situation and see each college from a different perspective. Although choosing a college is a personal decision, it shouldn’t be made alone.
5. The academic support provided
Going to college first and foremost means getting an education. An important part in choosing a college is making sure it can support your academic goals and needs. Although you might go into college thinking you know what you want to major in, chances are that will change. If you pick a college thinking you’re going to do one thing then change your mind, are there going to be other viable options for you?
For example, if you think you want to major in Accounting, but there’s a small chance you might want to switch to Nursing, you should consider going to a college that has strong programs in both. If you like small class sizes and easy interaction with your instructors, maybe a large public school isn’t the best choice. If you need accommodations of any sort, does the school have resources and support for you? These are important things to think about to make sure you’ll get the best education for you.
Even though choosing where you want to go to college is a major decision, don’t let it intimidate you too much. If you end up hating where you go (like I did!), you can always look into transferring or taking a semester off. Just trust your instincts and enjoy the rest of your senior year!
If you’re still struggling with deciding which college to attend, take a second look at your final choices for more info using our College Search tool.