Have you ever imagined what you would do if you got accepted into all the colleges you applied to? Or, perhaps more than one of your dream colleges accepted you? What will you do when it is time to finally choose one? How do you know if it is the right choice? Are you sure?
Getting an acceptance letter is exciting but getting multiple offers at the same time can turn excitement into an overwhelming feeling when it is time to choose one. The comforting news is that you are definitely not alone and there are multiple factors to consider when selecting the right college for yourself.
Comparing colleges and choosing the right one requires a lot of time and energy, but these 6 steps can help make the decision process more manageable and help you make the best decisions possible.
1. Academics and Curricula
The main reason you are going to college is to earn a college degree, most likely in the field that you want to specialize in for a career. Even if you have not decided on your major, look more closely at the college to see if it has the programs that you may want to study. Search for rankings of the college and ranks of these programs that interest you. Examine the profiles and reputations of the professors in your intended areas of study. Browse carefully at the course and program to identify the mandatory elements you need to complete in order to graduate. For instance, most majors require you to take specific courses, but not all of them require a senior thesis. As a result, you should evaluate all colleges from an academic standpoint, try to identify the subjects that you will need to take, to get a sense of how your first few years will be like. From this, you can decide if you can stay on the required path to graduate.
2. Tuitions, Fees, Expenses, and Financial Aid
Colleges are not cheap by any means. The tuition fees are overwhelmingly expensive and living expenses add on as well. Hence, the cost of a college is a major factor that should influence your decision when choosing a college. If time allows, contact the financial aid office to discuss support packages in detail. This will enable you to identify whether the school is willing to financially assist you or to offer you a scholarship. If financial stresses rise and the thought of too much loan debt seems mind-boggling, the college might not be the right choice for you and your parents.
3. Location and Campus Safety
Another factor that you might want to consider when debating which college to go to is their locations. Ask yourself these questions, do you want to study in a place that is always warm and sunny, or perhaps a city that is freezing cold in the winter? Do you want to live in a particular city, or in a rural place that is close to the nature? Do you want to be close to home? Think about what matters the most to you and what location you will have the best experience. This is a major factor to consider as this is where you will be spending the majority of your student life and possibly afterwards. The location can increase or decrease your travel expenses. Campus safety is of paramount importance.
4. Social Clubs and Activities
Most colleges commonly flaunt the number of activities and student organizations they offer. However, it can be argued that the number is not as important as the nature of those activities. Before choosing the right college for you, you must ensure that the college that you wish to go to has extracurricular and social activities that interest you. If your favorite hobby and activity is to play competitive basketball, you might want to choose the college that offers national competition. If music is your passion, then make sure that the college can offer you that particular opportunity and facilities. Choose the school that complement your passions and interests as you will be miserable if you do not have an exciting and stimulating life outside of academics.
You must consider the type of housing you would like to live in, ranging from campus size and student population living on campus to rooming requirements and special dormitory options. Most colleges offer coed housing, while some offer single-sex housing. Not all schools offer single-sex housing for both men and women, so if this is important to you, make sure you ask during your campus visits or search on the internet. Moreover, some colleges have theme housing, where each dorm has a different theme (for instance, science, music, sports, etc.) to bring students together who have similar interests. Are you a person that likes to socialize and live with other people or are you a person that likes to have privacy? Ask yourself this question and do your research. The right college for you will be able to provide you with the most suitable accommodation for your needs.
6. Meal Plans
Unless you live in a campus apartment or at home with a private kitchen, on-campus housing policies may require students to purchase meal plans. This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing as you will be living in a dorm where your room will not be equipped with a kitchen or kitchenette. Many dorm buildings have kitchens on each floor, but some will only have one communal kitchen shared among all residents. It isn’t realistic to think that you’ll have uninterrupted access to your dorm’s kitchen facilities at all mealtimes. Therefore, if you are a person that likes to cook your own food, do your research and choose a college that will provide you with access to a kitchen. If you do not plan to cook, find out if the cafeterias on campus make good food. Search for reviews of the food on campus.
We all know that choosing the right college is stressful and overwhelming as we do not know exactly how things will turn out if we choose one over the other. However, you must look past the college rankings and reputation, and consider other factors such as academics, tuition fees, financial aid, location, social activities, housing, and meal plans before making a final decision.