More Tips: How to Decide What College to Attend
Almost a month ago, our wonderful admissions consultant, Jamie Oldham, wrote us a great intro piece on making those initial decisions about where to go to college. Now that more than a few of you are (hopefully) receiving more acceptances than you can handle, we’re back with more tips on how to make that final call.
So, you’ve got a whole bunch of admissions packets piled on your desk (lucky you!) along with those stacks of papers and socks and pens your parents have asked you to clean up a million times because they’re thisclose to snapping. But each one has its good parts and bad parts, and you’ve got what some of us call decision fatigue. What you need, friend, is ACTION PLAN.
1) Make Yourself a Classic Pros and Cons Sheet. First, you’ve got to find an easy way to visualize all that’s great about each school and all that’s...yeah...not so much. Whether it’s in a Word document or scribbled large on your wall (which I’m assuming you’ve pre-coated with chalkboard or whiteboard paint), make a pro and cons table for each school, and compare them side by side. This will be a great way to get out of your head and thinking aloud.
2) Re-Examine All of Your Criteria. Chances are, no college on your list will have it all. Maybe this one has an awesome college newspaper but is about ten sizes too big, while this one over here has intimate classes with great professors but there’s no newspaper in sight. You may even want to list all of your criteria out before you make your pros and cons sheet and assign each one a number in terms of importance. Because, while attending a highly ranked science school might feel like a plus, you might not feel that way when you show up on campus and decide you want to major in Studio Arts. If you already know what you want to study, make sure the courses and resources on offer will be just what you need to further that burgeoning career of yours. And if you’re undecided (perfectly fine!), make sure the school you attend has the flexibility to allow for experimentation, and any resources you might need to make whatever route you choose possible.
3) Dolla Dolla Bills. If, like most people, you can’t pay for college upfront, it’s important to take a close look at just what you and your family can afford. Even if you’ve received partial scholarships and great loans at a private or out of state school, student debt is something you’ll be living with potentially for decades, and it may not be worth it if your local state school will still be less expensive. Don’t snub your nose at a good financial package from a lower ranked school, especially if it offers options that suit your learning style.
4) Forget the Rankings...Mostly. For the most part, what matters in choosing a college is “fit,” i.e. how well that college will fill your academic, social and career needs. Believe me, there are countless schools that can do that for you, and many aren’t ranked as the top 10 schools in the nation. However, for some majors, rankings will matter more than ever. If, for instance, you’d like to work on Wall Street, it’s a lot harder to get the connections you need if you don’t go Ivy. It’s not impossible by any means, especially if you attend another top tier university, but many of the biggest firms treat the Ivies like their personal training grounds, making it a lot easier to jump into a good position. So ignore the rankings...But not if you know you want to do something specific where prestige is everything.
5) Visit. Again. When you’re really stuck, it’s time to hop into the car and take a stroll again through your competing campuses. Many colleges will have recruiting nights to entice you further, which present good opportunities to get to know students in both formal and informal ways. Try dropping in on classes as well, or sleeping over. This will give you a great sense of what it will be like to live and study here.
Still having trouble deciding which college is right for you? Try taking this quiz from US News and World Report. No matter what decision you make, we’re sure you’ll have a great time in college. Good luck!
Leah Kaminsky is the founder and head writing specialist at Just Start Applications. She’s been writing since before she was born (that’s right, it’s possible!) and has over a decade of experience helping students and business people tell their stories using their authentic voice. Check out her full bio here and contact us today for help getting into the college, graduate school or medical school of your choice.
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More Tips: How to Decide What College to Attend So you've started to get college admissions letters -- too many, actually. How to choose the college of your dreams? JustStartApplications.com's Leah Kaminsky takes a look.
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