Your admissions letters are in, and the great news is that you’ve been accepted to your two dream schools. But how to choose? With so much on the line and four or more years to look forward to, picking the right college for you matters. This guide will help you make the hard choice without seconding guessing yourself.
Step 1: Make a Pros and Cons List
It’s an old trick, but a pro/con list really can help you sort through all those feeling just below the surface. Maybe one school has professors you love and a gourmet cafeteria while the other is a little too far from home. Count up the pros and subtract the cons. Whatever has the highest number wins. Plus, weighing each of these against one another in list form can help you see each of your options outside the flashy brochures.
Step 2: Visit Again
It’s not always possible, but if distance isn’t a factor, take another tour of the college. This is especially a great idea to do in the winter when the school isn’t full of flowering trees and students in shorts going to tons of college sponsored activities. If you still have those warm and fuzzy feelings, it’s true love. If you start to find faults on second viewing, it might not be worth it.
Step 3: Get Linked to an Alumni
Many schools love hooking you up with access to a recent alumni or graduating students. This person can be a great sounding board on if they think you’ll be a good fit culturally with the school. The trick is to ask for honesty, and you’ll get it. It may take awhile to build up this relationship, but it’s worth it for the valuable input.
Step 4: Go Off-Campus
While your schools may be relatively the same, the towns or cities that they are in may be the deciding factor. First, really think about what you love or hate about where you are now. Is city life for you or would you do better in a countryside with loads of nature? In addition, check to see how your school interacts with the town. Good town-and-gown relations is really important for students who want to fit in or explore.
Step 5: Check the Cold Hard Facts
Some schools win you over with beautiful campuses and awesome tour guides, but the real deal is in the numbers. How many students complete and graduate the program in four years? What is the job placement rate? How is school safety? All this data should be readily available if you ask an admissions counselor or advisor. If they’re less than forthcoming, be wary.
Step 6: Compare the Tuition Costs
It’s no secret that college tuition costs will follow you around for years after graduation in the form of student loans. Most dream schools are just not worth this price tag when another offers you competitive scholarship programs or comes at a lower cost. If money is a concern or at least a factor, your financial aid package should settle the score.