Spring is in full swing, and while we all appreciate the glimpses of warmer weather and the flowers in bloom, it can also be an anxious time for certain people. Many teens and students (as well as their parents and advisors) know that April is usually “decision time” when it comes to college admission. Students have sent in their applications, schools have sent out acceptance letters, and although there may be some disappointments, the time has come to make the final call. Where will they call home for the next four years, setting the stage for the rest of their lives?
This week, we are addressing the major, life-altering decision of choosing a college to help your grad feel equipped and confident with their final choice. In this blog you will learn about the key final selection factors and how to actually make the call at crunch time.
Here are the key factors to consider when choosing the best fit among good candidates:
- Consider the environment, culture, and values of this institution. Is it a good fit for you? Does it align with who you are?
- Can you picture yourself living here for the next four years?
- How comfortable would you be with “fitting in?”
- Will the size and location (city, state) bring out your best? (Think about what you prefer: larger or smaller, bustling big city or quieter, suburban area.)
- During your campus visit, how friendly and positive were the students and staff with whom you interacted?
- College is very expensive, and costs vary dramatically from institution to institution.
- Remember to factor in the cost of graduate school, too, if you plan on attending. This may argue for a more reasonably priced undergraduate school.
- Develop a four-year budget for every school you’re considering and compare costs.
- Consider regular expenses (room and board, food, books, etc.) as well as the expected travel costs during visits to home (if you go to school out of state) and the average cost of living in that area.
- Seek out scholarships and consider all financial aid packages.
- With your investment of time and money, you need to assess the valueof a degree from each institution. Higher cost does not necessarily mean better quality! This is an easy mistake to get caught up in.
- What is the reputation of the university AND the major/program you might be considering?
- What are the institution’s rankings?
- What’s the availability of majors and courses you are interested in?
- Will your courses be taught primarily by professors or TAs?
- What are the student return rates for the second year, as well as graduation rates at the university?
- Do you know the expected class sizes? Will you be a name or a number?
- What is their commitment to, and effectiveness of, their job placement program to help students land positions after they graduate? What percent of graduates in general, and in the majors of interest, land a full-time job in their major after graduation? What other training/support (e.g., resume writing, interview skills, major/career surveys, internship programs, job fairs, on-campus recruitment, navigation for job searching) are students offered?
- What other programs, activities, and extracurriculars are offered that may be of interest?
This decision is a major one, and it may keep some of you up at night! After weighing all of the above information, here a few final action steps to selecting the best overall choice:.
- If you haven’t visited the final few, do so if at all possible. There is no substitute for an on-site feel of universities. In some cases, you may want to visit the final few again, if that’s feasible.
- If possible, talk with current students and graduates to hear about their firsthand experiences.
- Develop a list of pros and cons for each finalist school (even if it’s only two). This, together with the preceding rankings, may lead to one choice standing out from the crowd.
- Resist peer influences. No one knows you or your preferences like you. Make the decision that’s right for you, helped by a thorough and objective review!
There you have it. We hope all students (and their parents) find this helpful as they navigate one of the biggest decisions of “adulthood” to date! As always, share this with the future college students and parents in your life, in hopes that this process will become more seamless and clear for all.
About the author
Dennis Trittin is the author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. Through his books, blog, and nationwide speaking engagements, Dennis prepares students for life success and equips parents and educators in their vital training role. You can find him here on Facebook.