You’ve been waiting to spread your wings and fly for years. It’s almost time to enroll in college and start pursuing your dreams but… how exactly do you choose the college that suits your needs? Going to the right university could make the difference between loving the next four (or six, or eight) years of your life and giving up early, so it’s of the utmost importance that you make a smart choice.
Step One: Consider Each School Carefully
If you’ve been accepted to more than one of the colleges on your list, it can feel like you’re flying high. However, it may also make it more difficult to choose which one you really want to attend. Take the time to reevaluate each option. Ask yourself what made you apply to each school in turn. Compare the benefits of each. A nice campus might be important, but a relationship with the graduate school you want to attend is probably more beneficial.
Step Two: Organize Your Priorities
You’ve gone through and looked at each school and what you liked about it, so now you have an idea of what your priorities are. The next step is to rank them in actual order of importance. Is the athletic program going to be important to you, or could you care less? Would you rather have smaller classes or attend the largest seminars? Make sure you focus on the issues that matter the most first – little details are usually negligible.
Step Three: Revisit Your Schools
It’s easy to fall in love with a college the first time you visit. After all, the excitement of beginning this next chapter of your life can be intoxicating at times. Once you have a variety of choices, however, go back and look over the school more critically. Is that beautiful campus going to mean you have to walk farther to your dorm? Are the buildings well maintained and easy to navigate? Are there things to do in the surrounding town? You’ll be living there for quite some time, so pay close attention.
Step Four: Compare Financial Options
If School B is your second choice but you could earn a free ride, it may actually be the right decision for you. Gather all the information you can about financial aid packages, scholarships, and work studies. Different plans work better for different people, but it’s important that your school also matches your financial situation. College debt is one of the toughest challenges graduates face today. Don’t unnecessarily stack the financial deck against you.
Need convincing? Check out this info graphic from the Editors of The Week.com.
Step Five: Get Outside Input
Your parents and guidance counselors probably have experience with this same struggle. Even though it is your decision, talking it out can help you objectively see the good and bad of each option before you dive in.
When it comes to choosing a college, think about it seriously, take your time, and trust your instincts. And before you know it, you’ll be shaking hands and earning your degree.