How to Decide Which College to Go to

February 6, 2018

With first semester over, seniors can now relax… or so you think. Behind that carefree attitude, the blissful smiles, and the supreme rule of the school, there is still one last thing seniors must do; choose which college they will be attending in the fall.

Most application deadlines have passed and admission decisions will be rolling in for those who applied early action or early decision. For some, the application process was the most difficult part of applying to college; however, for those who applied to multiple schools, making a choice may be even more taxing. There is no right or wrong choice, just schools that may be a better fit than others based on a multitude of factors. Here are some of those factors you should consider when committing to a college.

First, you should hold off on making a decision until you’ve heard back from all of the colleges you’ve applied to. Even if you’ve gotten into your top choice and you’ve received a great financial aid package, you should wait and see if another school will offer you something better.

To begin selecting a college, it would be beneficial to have an understanding of what you may want to study or what you generally want to gain from your college, especially if you have an interest in a less popular field of study. Then, you can narrow down your options to the schools that would best fit your expectations and standards.

It’s not a secret that college is an investment, and a large one at that. Need-based and merit-based financial aid play a huge role in lowering that price tag- which is often the dominant deciding factor of where you end up. While student loans are available to aid you in your pursuit of higher education, you must also consider the drawbacks. Even if you are taking out a small amount in comparison to the overall cost, keep in mind that the minute you graduate, you have to begin paying off your debt. Additionally, because of a little thing called interest, the amount you take out is going to be less than the amount you pay.

When consulting Ms. Meredith about what one should do when faced with making this difficult decision, she said, “Often times students will sit with me and we will go over all of their award letters and see which schools are in the family’s realm of affordability and then from there talk about the social pieces.” Additionally, she advises to consider the following questions: “Where do you think you will be happiest living for four years? Where do you think you will have the biggest opportunities for internships, studying abroad, and all of the things you might want to experience in college?” Overall, Ms. Meredith advises that students heavily consider which school will, “not be a financial burden but also where the student will be most successful.”

Another great resource are the teachers that you see at school everyday. Just like you, they had to make this decision at some point in their lives, and hearing their stories may help you gain a little perspective. Mr. McClure, one of South’s many beloved art teachers and a CU Boulder alum, recounted that, “At that time, in-state was much cheaper. I was wowed by the campus and the people.” As is the case with most students, Mr. McClure explained that, “When I was eighteen, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. I was good at a lot of different things so I needed a place where I could grow and where I could have the possibility of studying anything.” In addition, Ms. Shope, a math teacher and Tennessee Technological University Alumna, shared that she, “went and looked at a lot of different colleges.” A friend of Ms. Shope’s was also going to attend the college that she was interested in. Ms. Shope then went on to say that more influential factors were that, “it was a college that was strong in math and science which is what I was interested in. The real determining factor was cost.” Lastly, NYU alumna, Ms. Rinaldi, shared her experience. Ms. Rinaldi’s number one factor was location. As she recalled, “The first time I visited New York City, when I was four, I knew I wanted to live in New York City.” Continuing on her process, she said that, “where I grew up was two and a half hours outside of New York and I have to admit, I became kind of monomaniacal about NYU.” When discussing the financial bit of this process, she recounted,  “I applied early decision even though there was no way my family could afford to send me there, but because I was accepted early decision and because NYU is such a big school with tons of money, I eventually got them to give me the financial aid package I needed to go there.”

If you are still struggling with making a decision, there are other resources that may guide you to making the best choice. Try contacting currently enrolled students or alumni that recently graduated in order to give you a more personal look at the school. You can also see if the schools have any admitted student events or special events that will sell you on their school; remember, these schools are just as interested in having you attend their school as you are in going there. Ms. Meredith made an excellent point in saying, “I am a big believer in your gut feeling, and you kind of have to go with what that’s telling you.” At the end of the day, there is bound to be one school that you really feel stands out for an inexplicable reason. If that’s the case, then don’t be afraid to let that sway you and go with your intuition. But regardless of your choice, you will love the college you choose.

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