If you are planning to attend college this Fall then you know that May 1st is the big day in the college admissions process. Students must decide within the next few days whether to accept or reject an offer of admission and what college they will be attending. Maybe you got into your first-choice college and have no decision to make at all and already have started packing your bags. But, maybe your college choice is a little tougher than that. You could have been wait listed, received more than one acceptance letter or did not get the scholarship you had hoped for to help pay for the private university tuition. Or maybe, like so many others, you just do not know what school you should choose.
This decision is a difficult one for many. The next four years are an investment in your future and how do you know if you are making the right choice. Should you go where you feel most comfortable? Should you choose the school where your friends are going? Should you choose your parents alma mater? Below are some factors you should consider when deciding if a school is a good fit for you. Take a look at these characteristics in order of importance to you and see how well each college matches up to each other:
o Take a look at the professors at the school, their research, awards and backgrounds
o Review the course catalog online to get an idea of the types of courses and major programs offered and if they match your academic pursuits
o Sit in on classes – how big or small are they and do they teachers know the students on a first name basis?
o Talk to alumni regarding life after graduation – did they feel prepared in their chosen careers?
o Go visit the school in-person if you have not done so already – some schools will even let you stay overnight or for the weekend with another student. Can you picture yourself there – do you and the school click?
o Meet the current students to get a real sense of the school – where are they from and what are their backgrounds?
o Look at the extracurricular activities, sports, Greek life – does this school offer everything you are interested in?
o Look at the school's Facebook or twitter pages, read the college newspaper online – see what the admissions counselors are not telling you
o Can you, or your parents, really afford this school?
o Review not only the tuition, but the costs for housing, meal plans and transportation. Will you need to fly, take the train / bus or drive home on breaks?
o Compare the financial aid packages, scholarships, loans, gifts, grants and any work-study opportunities
This week you'll make one of the biggest decisions of your life. If you still have questions, talk to your guidance counselor, a favorite teacher or your parents who know you both academically and personally. They might be able to help you evaluate the pros and cons. This decision is a personal one and the final choice should be made yours, but it never hurts to ask for advice from people who know you well and care about your future.