Happy April! If you’ve had good luck with your college applications, now the choice is up to you. You may have several good options. Which one should you accept? This is a big decision—one that will shape the next four years of your life. So it’s not surprising if you feel a bit daunted, even dizzy.
But rest assured this doesn’t have to be a game of blind man’s bluff. Focus on the basic issues, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Here are some tips to help you organize your thinking and reach the decision that’s right for you.
1. Don’t be swayed by the status of a college. Instead, carefully consider the educational experience it offers. Look closely at the academic departments, especially the one where you are likely to major. Make sure it has the faculty and courses that will be challenging and exciting for you.
2. Familiarize yourself with the social options at the school. Aside from freshman orientation, what structures are there to help students make friends? Is diversity encouraged? Are fraternities, sororities or exclusive social clubs important at the school? And if so, how do you feel about that? Does the school offer a robust array of extracurricular activities where you are likely to meet like-minded people?
3. Consider the location of the college. Find out how long it will take to travel home. This is a trip you’ll be making many times over the next four years. Be sure that you’re familiar with the transportation options and that they’re manageable.
4. Ask what help it offers in finding internships and research assistant positions. Some schools offer stronger support than others. If you have special needs, find out what sort of support the college offers for them.
5. Try to revisit the top schools on your list. Make sure your original impressions were on target. But consider skipping the “Admitted Students Weekend” and visiting at a more typical time instead. You’re more likely to get an accurate feel for the college when fewer high school students and parents are around.
6. Compare the real costs at each college. Do the math carefully. Stay focused on the bottom line—the amount you will be paying each year, loans included. Don’t let offers of scholarships or merit aid dazzle you into missing the big picture. A moderate amount of debt may be manageable. But be careful. Nobody should go deep into debt to pay for college—and that includes you.
7. Talk these issues over with your parents. Try to reach a consensus, a decision that everyone can live with. Remember that it’s your life. But it’s probably going to be mostly their money. You should be respectful and considerate of them, just as they should be respectful and considerate of you.
For more information, contact The College Strategist