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How to Make the Right College Choice

March 02, 2010 By: Julie Manhan Category: Choosing a College

Congratulations, the schools you thought would be a good fit for you have accepted you.  Now you are faced with the challenge of deciding which one of those “good fit” colleges is actually the right college choice for you.

I wish there was a simple formula you could use to help you make that college choice, but there’s not.  However, there are a few things you can do to help you narrow the field and make the best choice possible.

1. Visit the campus.  Even if you’ve visited before, do it again.  I especially encourage you to attend events specifically for admitted students, if at all possible. While you’re there, be sure you sit in on a class or two. Pay close attention to how the faculty and students interact with each other, as well as how engaged the students are in the material being covered.  Pay attention to your feelings while you’re on campus, even write them down so you can remember them later.

2.  Once you’ve visited the campus, ask yourself:

  • Did I feel comfortable with the students I interacted with or did I feel out of place?
  • Would I enjoy being in class and living in a residence hall with the other prospective students I met?
  • Can I picture myself on that campus four years from now?
  • Did I feel safe on the campus and the surrounding neighborhood?
  • Was there anything that made me feel uncomfortable or uneasy?

Your honest answers to these questions can be a good indicator of just how comfortable you will be on campus.  That’s important because the more comfortable you are, the more likely you will be to do well academically as well as socially.

3.  Compare each school’s programs and opportunities in the academic area(s) you are considering.    

While many schools offer the same areas of study, their programs can be vastly different.  For example, while one school’s program may emphasize hands-on learning, another may focus more on theoretical studies.  Planning on doing an internship?  Be sure to check out where, and how many students have done them in recent years.  If there’s something you know you definitely want to do while you’re in college (i.e. study abroad), be sure you gather as much information as possible about it before you make your choice.

4.  Consider your personal needs and circumstances.

As much as you might like to choose a college far from home, there can be many reasons why that may not be the best choice.  From being near a beloved grandparent to the cost of airfare, students have many valid reasons to consider the location of the college when making their final choice.  Another thing students may need to consider is climate.  If you hate snow or get depressed when it rains, you need to take that into account.  A student who is miserable because of the weather, rarely thrives in school.  Every student’s circumstances are unique, so don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd as you make your decision.

5.  Weigh the final cost.

While this shouldn’t necessarily be the first factor you consider when you make your college choice, for most people, it shouldn’t be ignored either.  Graduating from a school with a huge debt, when you could have received a comparable education elsewhere and incurred less debt, is something you need to think about carefully.  Compare your financial aid offers.  You can even ask the school’s financial aid office to help you figure out what your loan payment will be by the time you finish school.  Still think the school where you will incur the most debt is the right choice for you?  Be sure to talk to an adult you trust about it and investigate loan forgiveness and forbearance programs that may be available to you before you make your final decision.

In the end, it comes down to trusting yourself and making the best college choice possible using the information you have.