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Choosing a College

Every year, seniors not only across the country, but around the world, are faced with an incredibly tough decision. Where should I go to college?

Receiving acceptance letters is extremely exciting, but they also bring along with them immense stress. How does one even go about picking a college? It may seem extremely overwhelming, but think about how many people before you have successfully selected a college and have gone on to be happy at said institution. Don't stress - you will eventually come to a decision, and you will be happy!

First of all, it is important to select the colleges that you apply to wisely. It will be very helpful to you to apply to a couple of "safety" schools (schools that you feel that you would definitely be admitted to or definitely be able to afford), some realistic schools, and some "reach" schools that may be slightly out of the range of your stats and scores. Many people apply to safety schools because they "have" to, and assume that there is no way that they would actually go. Make sure that ALL of your "safety" schools are "happy" schools - schools that you would be happy to attend. In this day and age, the price of a college education is astronomical, and you may not know what schools will be within your limits until you receive your financial aid package; likewise, the admission process is just one big game, and no one can truly be certain what schools they will or won't be admitted to. Want to apply to an Ivy League but are unsure of your stats? Go for it! You really never know what will happen, but what is for certain is that you should make sure that you would be happy at any of the schools that you apply to.

For help in finding information about various colleges that you are interested, try these sites:

Apply to ENOUGH schools...not too many. Don't make your job harder than it has to be later. Every year some seniors struggle in the final months of their high school career to select a college because they applied to nine, ten, maybe even fifteen schools! Don't do this to yourself. There is no real need to apply to so many schools; you will get in somewhere, and at the end of the day, you want to make your choice as easy as possible.

When it comes time to pick a school, try to be organized. If you really need to figure out what is most important to yourself in a school and need to compare your colleges, go out to the nearest craft store and purchase a poster board. Divide it up into columns - one for each of your schools. Make a row for each thing that you think is most important in a college to YOU. For example, categories that you may consider could be:
  • The school's distance from home.
  • The quality of the food.
  • The quality of the dorms.
  • Availability of clubs, sports, Greek life, or organizations that interest you.
  • College surroundings (urban, suburban, rural; whether or not there are plenty of things to do).
  • Financial burden (scholarships offered, financial aid, and total overall cost).
  • What the people are like.
  • Reputation.
  • Big school or small school?
  • Availability of internships.
  • General pro's, con's, and other observations.
  • Appearance.
  • Availability of majors that interest you.
  • The quality of the specific programs that you are interested in.
  • Anything that is important to you, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Is it really, really important to you to have the opportunity to ski? Well then that is viable criteria because you care about it and this is your experience.
When you are done, you have created for yourself a huge physical spreadsheet of all of your colleges right next to each other - this will let you see where each college is lacking or looking tempting, and you can compare them extremely easily.

Check out these awesome sites for help -

Now that you have figured out what is important to you, it is time to make the big decision. Where to pick? All of the aforementioned factors are huge in influencing a senior's decision, and it is important to weigh them all against each other. Are you concerned with potential debt when graduating from college? Well, then maybe the financial burden of each college will be a major factor for you. Do you really want to continue playing your sport? Maybe that will be a big factor for you.

Just know that there are people out there that can help you. This is a big decision, and often students feel extremely overwhelmed because it is the first major decision that they have ever made truly by themselves. Just because you are making this decision alone does not mean that there are not people to guide you. Asking relatives or friends for advice on which college to pick is really tough. They all have different opinions of what college you should attend, and if their opinions don't match your current mindset, it can be very discouraging. An extremely helpful idea is to set aside time with a teacher or guidance counselor that you trust. Every year, they watch kids go off to college; they understand what you are going from. Their opinion is valuable because it is unbiased. They aren't related to you, so in the end, your college decision really doesn't have an impact on them. They just want to see you succeed and see you happy. For this reason, they can help guide you to your own true, personal choice that you are seeking for yourself.

Throughout all of this, remember that this is YOUR decision. Do not select your college based upon what your friends, family, or parents want. You will be the one attending the school, not them. This is your college experience; they have had theirs, now it is your turn. Select a college because you want it. After all, you will be the one attending class, making friends, sitting in the dining hall...if something is important to you, then it is important. Often parents or family members will have strong opinions about where a student should attend college; it is important to remember that they feel this way because they truly seek the best for you, and are oftentimes fearful that "their baby" is making such a huge decision on their own. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that as an adult, you will be looking back on your college experience, and you will want to be proud that it was yours. Take the opportunity to make a major decision for yourself, after all, your values and opinions are the important ones in this situation.

Don't worry! You can't go wrong! This is college. No matter where you go, you are going to have the best years of your life. Once you make your choice, enjoy the relief and excitement that will surely follow. No matter what college you select, your future will be brighter for obtaining a college degree. Enjoy the last few weeks of your high school career, and have a blast in college!