Guess what? You’re in luck! You’ve been accepted by several colleges. But now you have to choose which one you’re going to attend. There are a lot of factors at work in figuring out which college or university will provide the best experience for you, both educationally and culturally. Here are my tips, based on experience, on choosing a college.
Think about geography
You definitely want to have a good academic program that will give you the credentials you need to succeed in your career field. But you also need to think about where the college is located. For example, do you want to live in a warm, sunny area, or would you prefer to live in the snowy skiing country?
Consider the culture
What are you looking for in terms of culture? When choosing a college, think about whether you’re more of a “country mouse” or a “city mouse” before you make your choice. If you don’t think you’d be comfortable in a large city, an urban college may not be the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you’ve spent most of your life feeling stifled in the country, go for a small (or large) city for more cultural opportunities. Remember also that college is both an education and a journey, and going outside your comfort zone can be a learning experience in itself.
Would you prefer the anonymity—and possibly an increased array of opportunities—offered by large institution? Or would you prefer the chance to have personalized attention and small class sizes? Speaking personally, I grew up in a small town where everyone knew me, but I felt a lot like an outsider there, and I craved the opportunity to meet more kindred spirits when I went to college. Because of that, I opted for a larger school when choosing a college.
Not all colleges and universities have the same tuition or financial aid opportunities. Don’t reject a school with high tuition, because those schools often have larger endowment funds and may be able to offer financial aid packages that will have you responsible for about the same amount as a less expensive school. State universities often offer reduced tuition for in-state students, which may make them more affordable. Just consider the whole financial aid package and what costs you’ll be responsible for when choosing a college.
Consider your housing options
Some colleges and universities offer ample on-campus housing for incoming freshman students, while others don’t. Think about whether you’re going to have to search for an apartment or roommates when you go to your school of choice, and find out what you can expect to pay for your housing.
Go with your gut
If you’ve visited colleges to which you’ve been accepted, you’ll have gotten a feeling about them based on your experiences there. If you’re torn between two—or several—institutions, allow your intuition to guide you.
Take these six things into account when choosing a college, and the odds are very good that you’ll end up making a choice that works for you in lots of ways.