5 Factors to Weigh as You Choose a College

college-campusesMany seniors and their families are struggling to make their final choice of college before the deadline of May 1. Let me offer 5 factors that I think are important to consider as you decide your college:

1. Is it a Fit for YOU?

Aside from your chosen major, how is this college good for you? Chances are 1 in 3 that you’ll change your major, and that isn’t necessarily bad. If this college is on your list primarily because of the major, would it be as attractive if your second choice major took precedence.

2. Did you “connect” with the faculty?

When you visited, surely you met with a faculty member, and you should have noted if that connection was great or just so-so. Even if you met with a professor in a different department, that faculty member is a strong representation of the style of teaching professors, and I can assure you that the admissions office showed you their best. If you didn’t find this connection with any faculty or staff (other than your admissions rep), then you need to explore further. This is a critical factor in your success at the school.

3. Can you appreciate the environment for 4 years?

I suspect that the environment of the college was a strong determinant in your preference.  Yet, your appreciation of that may change over the first few months. Palm trees and constant sun won’t hold the same attraction to you when you have 3 papers and 4 exams to prepare.  If the excitement of the city appealed to you during your September visit, will it still appeal on cold and windy February days?  The quaintness of a small college town may turn a bit narrow after a few months.  Your attractions are bound to change, so will your focus on the educational opportunities stay strong?  This does not mean that you have to change schools when you tire of the environment!  Your education will (or should be!) dynamic!  You’ll study abroad, you’ll travel Utah with the Ski and Snowboard Club over spring break, you’ll intern with a company back home or elsewhere, you’ll discover hidden adventures even within the limited acreage of the campus labs and guest speakers.

4. Are these your people?

On your most recent visit to the college, did you find the current and incoming students to be people you could relate to in positive ways? Certainly, you don’t want everyone to be the same; you want to meet new and different kinds of friends, you want to be challenged in your thinking and your perspective. However, you want to have a base of fellow students that you feel comfortable with, who hold some similar basic values, people with whom you can empathize (and who will do the same for you).

5. Is the cost really the same as the money you’ll pay?

Have you looked carefully at the final cost of attendance for you at each of your colleges. Not all colleges present their awards or their costs in the same way. Research into the colleges’ websites, and possibly a visit to the Financial Aid office, is a must.

Does the college feel right? Not all of this decision can be made on emotion, but it isn’t all that different from dating, is it? After you’ve done all the research on you and the college, then one college should rise to the top for you as being the “right” one. (If it doesn’t, then more research is in order.)

If your answer is still not clear, then you may want to talk with a professional about your choices. Often, a one- or two-hour session is all you need to be sure.