You already narrowed down your list of choices, completed your applications, and now you’re ready to make your final choice. If you have multiple schools that have accepted your application for admission, then you’re ready for the most important choice yet.
A lot of factors will go into your final choice, and you’ll want to rank them according to your own priorities, but there are some guiding principles everyone can apply:
You probably know what you want to study, so opting for a school that is known for that subject seems like a good choice. Beware, however that many students end up changing majors—the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 80% of US students change majors at least once. Unless you’re completely positive you’re in the other 20%, then don’t let your current choice of major drive you choice of college.
What kind of academic reputations do your schools of choice have? Does that lead to better job placement?
Do you want a school close to home, or somewhere far-flung? Being able to drive home for the weekend is a bigger benefit than many students realize.
School and town size
Do you want to go to a small college where everyone knows one another, or a huge college with 10,000+ students and a nationally ranked sports team? And would you prefer a small college in a remote town, or something close to a large city? Consider the job options off campus if you plan to work part-time during school.
In the old days, students didn’t worry about college cost. They simply borrowed whatever they needed, confident that they’re get a good job to repay their loans. Those days are over. You will likely enter a job market that is not as rosy as your college suggests, and you could have a lifetime of debt to deal with. Don’t assume you’ll earn a lot of money just because you’re going to an elite college.
Financial aid packages
Two schools that are closely ranked on your list can offer very different financial aid options, so keep that in mind as a potential tiebreaker. Be aware of what financial aid you’re being offered is a loan that must be repaid vs. a grant or scholarship.
Do you want to attend a women’s college, a historically black college, or a military school? Perhaps you would prefer your college have a particular religious affiliation? This consideration can narrow your list of choices fast.
It’s tempting to put one factor above all others when choosing a college, but you need to balance all of your priorities if you’re going to make the best choice. You certainly shouldn’t completely ignore any factor—a generation of college grads ignored the financial cost of college and now they’re feeling the consequences of that choice. Learn from the previous generation’s mistakes and make an informed decision for yourself.