Making the Best College Choice Possible

Jaime Dalbke

The waiting is over.  You know which colleges want you to be part of their student body.  After all the months of waiting to find out if you "made the grade", now it’s your turn to decide which school will make your final cut.  Still, this can be a daunting decision.  Without a doubt, the most important thing you need to do before making that decision is to visit.  No brochure, website, video tour or Facebook page can capture the real feel of a campus.  You have to experience it for yourself.

Once you’ve visited, here are a few things you should consider before you make your final college choice:

  1. Comfort Level.  Ask yourself a few questions about your time on campus such as: Did I like the students I met? Did they seem like people I would have things in common with? How did the faculty members treat their students? When I read the school newspaper, did I find interesting things being discussed and events that sounded like something I would enjoy? Did I feel safe? Your answers to these questions can be a good indicator of just how comfortable you will be on campus.  A campus where you did not feel comfortable should be taken out of the running.
  2. Programs Offered.  In order to make a good college choice, you need to take a close look at the programs you’re interested in. If you’re not sure what you want to major in, look at all the areas that are interesting to you right now. (You might want to also find out how easy it is to change majors.)  Compare what each campus has to offer in terms of undergraduate research, field studies, internships, etc. in those fields to help you determine which campuses will provide you with the challenges and opportunities you are looking for.
  3. Personal Needs & Circumstances.  These definitely need to be considered carefully as you make your decision.  It can be anything from good support for students with learning differences to things that you must have because of special dietary or medical needs. From being near family to the cost of airfare, you may also have many good reasons to consider the location of the college when making your final college choice.
  4. Cost.  Most college students these days end up with at least some debt, but you really need to consider how much debt is reasonable for you to take on when you make your college choice.  Compare your financial aid offers.  You can even ask the school's financial aid office to help you figure out what your loan payment will be by the time you finish school.   Finally, be sure to talk this over with an adult who can help you sort out all the numbers.

As with any decision you have to make, it’s best to know as much as you can before you make the decision.  Discuss it with your parents. You may even want to talk it over with a guidance counselor.  They may have a perspective you haven’t considered.  Once you’ve done all that make the choice and let it go.  There’s no need to second-guess yourself.  You’ve made the best decision you can.

Author Julie Manhan is an independent college counselor and blogger for myUsearch.com, the Honest College Matchmaker, a site dedicated to helping students make the right college choice.

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