How Do You Know if a College is Right for You?
We make decisions every day. However, one of the first major decisions that you will have to make is selecting which college to attend. Even if you have a good idea of where you want to go, it’s not a matter to take lightly. You are making a decision that will alter the course of your life, and that’s both exhilarating and intimidating. Now, whether you are attending college directly after high school, taking a gap year, or unsure if college is a good fit, the process of deciding what path is best for you remains the same. So, how do you know if you’re making the right choice? Well, there is no ‘perfect’ answer, however, if you make sure to compare the colleges on your list to the four key aspects listed below, you can come to a conclusion, confidently knowing that you are setting yourself up for success.
- Majors – Your First Choice & Backups
The first priority in deciding on a college is ensuring that it not only has the degree you’re looking for, but it’s a program you’re interested in. For example, there are a variety of ‘psychology’ programs to choose from, each having a different emphasis, so knowing the syllabus that you are committing to will help you align yourself with a program you’re interested in.
Now, if you know for sure you will be attending a university having options in terms of degrees offered is extremely helpful. Whether you know exactly what you want to major in or have no idea whatsoever, it’s important to ensure the college of your choice has a backup major…or multiple ones that interest you. This will save you from freaking out half-way through when you realize that marketing isn’t for you and that you really want to focus on computer science but now need to change schools entirely.
- Location – Seasons, Size, & Distance
The idea of leaving for college is thrilling for some and terrifying for others. If you have an eye cast on the opposite horizon, be aware of a few things that will impact your stay. If you are coming from southern California and have never experienced winter before, make sure to research what February in Chicago will look like. Otherwise, that will be one rude awakening you weren’t prepared for. The same goes if you live in a dryer state and are heading off to a university where it’s constantly humid. This is by no means suggesting that you make your final decision based on how much sunshine you’ll receive, but it is important to be aware of the elements before saying yes.
The size of the school and the city you’ll be residing in can be more important to your overall wellness than you might think. If you lived in a big city, attended a big high-school, and move to a college that has under 1,000 students it can feel claustrophobic. But it can also feel liberating. The one problem you want to avoid is not having paid attention to the size of the student body and how you’re going to react to it. Again, this isn’t stating that you can’t pick a school with a small or huge student body if you aren’t familiar with it. What it does mean is that you want to be introspective enough to understand how well you function in that environment, and if you want to be there for the next four years.
Lastly, take the distance from home into consideration. Some people can’t wait to leave home, while others would rather stick close by. No option is wrong, just don’t let the excitement of ‘leaving for college’ blind you from your comfort level of being away for extended periods of time. There are lots of new changes that occur with attending college, and for some people being able to drive a few hours back home on an occasional weekend is important. Also, depending on where you are in life and what degree you want to major in, pursuing your degree online could be the best way to go.
- Cost – Admission & Financial Aid
No matter how you slice it, the cost is going to be an influential factor in your college choice. Even if you get a full ride, that in-of-itself will influence your decision. Being realistic about how much in student loans you are willing to collect, if you are able to work during school, and how much financial aid you’ll receive is crucial. These factors will help you decide whether or not to look into private schools and if out-of-state fees are worth it.
Financial aid is a big help to everyone, and some schools have more to offer than others. Some have scholarships, others have great work-study programs. Do your due diligence and make sure you understand everything that is available to you.
- Vibes – Extracurricular Activities & Diversity
College is more than just an education, although that is the most important part! However, you are about to spend four years of your life here. Ensuring they have the right sports programs, art clubs, and the likes are key to your mental health which will impact your overall performance in classes.
Lastly, keep the diversity of the school in mind. Diversity is the easiest and best way to learn about new cultures and make new friends. It’s an opportunity to broaden your horizons and will enrich your overall experience. Whether it be through the extracurricular activities or just on campus, attending a school rich in diversity is a factor you should consider when looking into your options.
There you have it. It may seem like a lot, and if so, write everything down. Create a spreadsheet and see how many of the colleges on your list check off all of your needs in terms of Majors, Location, Price, and Vibes. These tools will help you navigate the plethora of options you’ll have before you and make the best decision for yourself and your future.