By now you have probably received a number of college acceptance offers. Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off and now you have to choose by May 1. Here are some tips you should consider before making the final choice.
1. Research the Schools
With everything at your fingertips online, there is no excuse not to know about the school that you might be attending. How does the school portray itself? What majors suit you? What are the graduation and retention rates? What is the school’s reputation? What academic and extracurricular opportunities are available to you?
2. Research your Major(s)
Look at the classes you will have to take in order to graduate? Do they sound like classes you would enjoy? How many students are in the major? Who are the faculty members? What research is being conducted in the department? Is your major department fully funded and not likely to be cut while you are attending school there? Where are the alumni working? You might have to call the department to get the answers to some of these questions.
3. Talk to Students
Who knows a school better than the students? If you have friends who attend the school that you are interested in, send them an email or give them a call. Ask them what they like about the school and what they would change? Also ask them why they decided to go there and what they wish they would have known? If you need more student input, call Admissions (or your major department) and ask them to put you in touch with current students who can answer your questions.
4. Visit the Campus
You will be living on or near campus for at least four years. Do you like the climate? Does the student body have enough diversity? Is there enough for you to do on weekends? Is the class size small enough? Do you like the surrounding town? Where would you live after freshmen year? Are there internships available in the area? Is the town walkable or do you need a car?
5. Compare Cost of Attendance
In our current economic climate, you have to be careful about taking out loans to attend college. What is the full cost of attendance? Have you thought about travel expenses and books? If you move off-campus as an upperclassman, what is the cost of renting an apartment in the area? Have you been offered any scholarships? Are they renewable? What are the requirements for renewal? Are there other scholarships for upperclassmen? What kind of return on investment will you receive? Check out http://www.finaid.org/ and http://www.thecollegesolution.com/
Create a spreadsheet with categories that are important to you such as, number of students, likely majors, extracurricular activities, costs, scholarships offered, campus atmosphere, town atmosphere, other opportunities, etc. After you have completed all of your research, weigh the pros and cons and make a well-informed decision.
No matter what you choose, remember that it is not where you attend college that matters; it is what you do at the college you attend that makes your college experience a success!