College Acceptance: Picking The Right One
Congratulations, seniors! Finally, the moment you’ve been working towards for the last several months (years) has arrived – you get to go to college! But first, if you’re lucky enough to have got more than one college acceptance letter, you have to make the Big Decision and select one college – and you want to make sure you’re picking the right one for you!
Of course, the pressure just piles on when everyone tells you that selecting which college will set the course of the rest of your life. Relax. Trust yourself. And know that just going to college is a winning strategy (college grads make more money and are happier with their jobs).
So, how do you choose between all those schools that want you? We’ve listed some key items you’d want to consider. (Make a list or spreadsheet with these factors, mark which ones matter to you, so you and your family can rate the colleges on each one.)
Majors and programs
Your time in college should help prepare you for a successful life and career. You have probably applied to schools with programs and majors that matter to you. Dig a little deeper. Visit the college websites to get more information about the majors you care about.
What are the offerings for special programs, like research, study abroad, internship, and career placement opportunities that are important to you? High school seniors are still discovering the world and their options in it. So many teenagers change their minds about the majors to pursue. Does the college offer other options that interest you and how long do you have before you have to commit to one?
Cost and financial aid
Let’s face it: college is expensive. Considering that 2015 graduates have the highest debt loads (for now), for most students it makes sense to compare the costs.
Check your financial aid letters to figure out the total cost of attendance (be sure to look at the TOTAL cost, including things like tuition, housing, books, and transportation). Will you get scholarships and grants (i.e. free money)? Is the school offering you loans (i.e. money you have to pay back)? How much money are you and your family willing to borrow? Are you willing to work while going to school?
You can also do a little sleuthing to find out more about the typical financial packages, as well as the graduation rate, by searching for the college here.
Location and surroundings
Do you want to go to college (and live for the next few years) in a big city like Chicago or Boston, or are you happier some place with a little less hustle and bustle? Reflect on whether open space and greenery is important to you, or the lively anonymity and constant buzz of a city like New York is what you crave. Also, if you’ve spent your entire life living in sunny southern California and have never seen snow, living and going to school in a place like Michigan might be a challenge – or an exciting new experience!
Distance from home
For some students, being far away from home seems exciting. They look forward to spreading their wings, learning to appreciate a new place and being independent.. For others, being close to home may be more appealing so they’re closer to family support, or because their family situation may need them to go home more often. For the rest, it’s not a big deal either way. So, think about what it means to you, how often you will want to go home and also what it will cost you.
The size of the school has a big impact on your college experience. A school like UCLA, with nearly 30,000 undergraduate students, lower division classes are often held in large lecture halls, and your professors may never know your name. But, there’s a bounty of amazing resources, social activities, best-in-their-field professors, and world-class facilities that only a larger school can provide.
On the other hand, Occidental College, also in Los Angeles, has just over 2,000 undergraduate students, and an average class size of 19, so your professors will definitely know you (and when you’re missing from class) at Oxy. Think about who you are and whether you would relish the variety in a larger school or flourish in a smaller setting or somewhere in between.
For many students, experiencing dorm life is one of the most memorable parts of being in college. Many students make some of their best college friends in the dorms (nothing creates strong bonds like mutually complaining about another meatloaf night in the dining halls). But, other students may not like to share a room and prefer the freedom and choice of living off-campus. There are all the other aspects of campus life to consider too, clubs, sports teams, sororities/fraternities, so check into the available options if any of these are important to you.
Sometimes you just know when something feels right, and that goes for colleges too. If you were able to visit the colleges you’re considering, did you have a Goldilocks moment with any of them? It could have been the happy-looking study body, the lush greenery, or the state-of-the-art science labs) but if any school felt “just right” to you, give it extra consideration.
Finally, choosing which college to attend is your decision. Your friends and family may have strong opinions, but you’ll be the one at the college (though if your parents are helping you foot the bill, you should definitely hear them out). So, take your time and pick the one that feels right for you.
What other factors are you thinking about when making this decision? Let us know in the comments below. And, congrats again!