It’s that time of year again. High school seniors around the country have finally received all of their much-awaited envelopes from higher education institutions. They’ve stacked all of their big envelopes, removing the definite “no’s” and religiously studied the pamphlets and pages inside the “maybe” colleges’ big envelopes.
So, how do you whittle your list of two, or three, or 10 possible universities down to one definite pick? While this elimination process may not come down the thought-free destiny you hoped it would, you’ll find that all your judicious thinking pays off in the end.
If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit one or more of your final choices, getting a first-hand look at the campus will definitely add to your perspective on the place. However, college tours can be time-consuming and expensive, especially when you’re trying to take several tours within the month, so they’re not always an option.
Whether you can personally tour a campus or not, there are a several important qualities to consider when choosing your university.
1. Size. Are you looking for small classes? Or would you rather live in a city-like environment and attend a big university? Thinking about what size school will be most conducive to your learning experience will speed up your elimination process.
2. Geography. Do you know what part of the country you want to live in for the next four years? Do you care which region you’re in, or what the weather is like? Of course, this should by no means be your number one consideration, but perhaps it will help you make an important final decision between two comparable schools.
3. Travel. How far is this school from home? If you’re a homebody and you’ll want to see your parents every weekend, a school 4,000 miles from home may not be your wisest option. If you aren’t affected by homesickness and don’t expect to go home more than four times per year, a long-distance commute back to your parents’ house may not be a deal breaker. Consider travel time, expenses, and mode.
4. Financial. How much does this school cost? If you have money saved up from your parents or from your high school job, your budget may be a little more elastic. But it’s good to know ahead of time what you’ll have to do to keep your head above the water when it comes to post-college debt.
5. Academics. Do you know what you want to study? If so, do a bit of research on their programs and see if they’re a good fit for you. If you’re not sure yet about what you want to study, or suspect you might end up switching to a different major, it may be best to keep your options open and select a well-rounded institution.
Much like people, no school is perfect, but it’s your job to pick the school that is the best fit for you. Don’t stress about it too much though: in the end, no matter what school you choose, the next four years will be filled with new experiences, excitement, and personal development.