Five Ways to Make the Final College Decision

college decisionMay 1st is the National deadline for college decisions. By this date, you will need to sort through your acceptances and commit to a college by placing a deposit. If you are struggling with your decision, here are some tips to help you sort through your options and make the right college choice.

Visit or revisit your final choices. Often, visits clinch the decision. If you visited during junior year, that was long ago, you may have a different perspective now. Many colleges offer admitted student events. Visiting a college when you’ve been admitted can be a different experience than visiting before applying. Sometimes, students are afraid to “fall in love,” possibly if they don’t know if they will be admitted or can afford it. It is also possible to look beyond prestige or status by visiting again and better consider whether the school is a good fit for you.

Weigh financial offers
Take the time to crunch the numbers carefully. Look at the requirements of any merit scholarships. Do you have to maintain a certain GPA, and is it a realistic GPA for you? While, of course, we want to think optimistically about college GPA, the reality is that it is not that uncommon for students to end up losing merit scholarships.

Remember that grants don’t need to be paid back, but loans do. If you are taking out student loans, set aside an hour to work with student loan calculators. Make sure you understand how much debt you will be taking out by the end of college and what sort of monthly payment you can expect to make. Consider the average time to graduation and see how that will affect your costs. Even a single year of extra tuition can add a huge amount to the final price tag. Encourage your parents to talk openly and honestly with you about costs and what they are comfortable with. While it is important you attend a college that is a good fit, your needs always need to be weighed with other family priorities, including your parents’ retirement and the education of your siblings.

Finally, as you weigh financial matters, consider the value of your return on investment. While prestige should not be the biggest consideration, it is worth evaluating how your degree will prepare you for a career or graduate and professional school. Minor differences in ranking are probably unimportant, but be wary of colleges that are unstable financially or have trouble attracting students. You don’t want to attend a college that will close down or where you cannot count on the alumni network.

Take a closer look at academics
Dig into the college’s website and take a long, hard look at academics. Most courses you take in college will not be in your major area of interest. So, start with looking at general education requirements. Will you need to take a lot of courses? Do the courses look interesting to you? Will you receive credit or placement for AP or college coursework?

If you have planned majors in mind, take the time to look in-depth at the course offerings and read about the work of professors in the department. Check the web pages for your major and look for recent news. Do students seem actively engaged in learning? Are there special programs at the school that you hope to participate in?

Think about where you will be the happiest
Happy college students are much more likely to stay in college and graduate. Try to be honest with yourself and think about the person you actually are, not some fantasy about the person you want to become. What factors are most important to the person you are right now? Consider academic challenges, friends, arts, sports, faith, community service, campus activities, and time in nature. Try to visualize yourself on a typical weekday in college. Where do you see yourself? What about on the weekend? Which of the schools you are considering offers you the greatest chance of finding a peer group you will connect with?   The ideal school will offer a comfortable environment and challenges to help you grow.

Bottom Line
There are many paths to a good life. If you still struggle to decide after weighing these considerations, that suggests you could be happy at any of the schools you are considering. There are no perfect colleges and no perfect college decisions, but there are many very good ones. Remember that most students end up being happy with their college choice.

1 comment

  • Accepted student visits made the final decision here. She really didn’t feel comfortable at the dream school when she went back.

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