Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions you will make. Here are five tips for seniors on how to choose a college.
I grew up in a middle-class family in Virginia with my mom, step-dad, and brother. Both of my parents worked hard to give my brother and me the best life they could.
My dream was to be the first person in my family to graduate from college. I was accepted into three colleges in North Carolina, including my dream school – the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
During my senior year in high school, I applied for many scholarships to defray the costs of attending an out of state college and thankfully was awarded several.
My parents couldn’t afford to finance my expenses, so I worked throughout the duration of my college years. I paid for my own living expenses, transportation, etc. by working 30-40 hours a week all year long.
Because I didn’t give up, I was able to figure out a way to make it happen and actually pulled it off! I became the first person in my family to graduate from college.
Fast forward 16 years. My son is now a sophomore in high school. He’s taking the most academically advanced classes he can manage, and preparing to take the PSAT and we will soon begin the journey of applying for colleges.
5 Tips for Seniors on How to Choose a College
If you’re a senior in the enviable position of deciding between multiple college acceptances, here are a few tips to help you make the right decision for you.
Remember that some uncertainty is normal.
Some students are sure about their final choice and are ready to sign on the dotted line as soon as the acceptance letter arrives. But many more are not. Some degree of uncertainty is normal for big decisions.
So, don’t be alarmed if you don’t feel as certain about your choice as your friends do. That uncertainty typically disappears as soon as you commit.
Know your cost before you sign.
Make sure you’ve carefully evaluated your financial aid award so you know the amounts of scholarships, loans, and work-study you qualify for. Not all financial aid is free money, and it’s important not to get preemptively swept up in the total figure listed for the award. It’s really important to have a financial plan after college.
Check your assumptions.
It’s common for families to make evaluative statements about colleges based on assumptions. Some examples:
College X is better for premed than College Y.
I should choose this school because it will offer great connections when I graduate.
This college will help me get into a good law school.
Are you able to substantiate those statements with facts, rather than opinions or hearsay? If not, then you’re working with assumptions that might be flawed. And that’s not a good way to choose a college.
- Evaluate yourself, too.
Too many families make the final college decision based on the purported features and benefits of the college without considering if the student will actually take full advantage of them. Choosing a college is a little bit like choosing a gym. The offerings are only as valuable as the frequency and vigor with which you take advantage of them.
- Don’t look for perfection.
Much like jobs, relationships, and families, there is no such thing as a perfect college. Every college campus has characteristics that could feasibly be improved, changed, fixed, etc.
But the benefit of choosing a college that fits is that you’ll be more likely to take advantage of its strengths and less likely to be affected by or to even notice its weaknesses. Comparing the supposed pros and cons of your options might help you organize your thinking, but it probably won’t guide you to a clear decision.
Instead, consider the purported strengths and weaknesses. Then evaluate your ability and likelihood of leaning into the former and working around the latter.
For example, if you want a career in law, look for a school with a strong undergrad program to prepare you for taking the LSAT. You can also find online LSAT prep tests to help you study for the exam and get into law school.
More High School Posts:
- Preparing for a New School
- How to Find The Elusive High School Supply List
- 4 Unusual Ways to Save Money on College
These tips about how to choose a college were provided by Kevin McMullin, the founder and Head of Talent at Collegewise. He is the author of If the U Fits: Expert Advice on Finding the Right College and Getting Accepted and pens at least one entry every day on his blog. Kevin is a graduate of UC Irvine with majors in English and history (where he answered, “What will you do with those majors?” approximately 783 times), and he has a college counseling certificate from UCLA.
Step-by-step guides on writing beautiful college essays and putting together an awesome college application:
- How to Build a Balanced College List for Counselors
- How to Write a Personal Statement
- How to Write the College Apps & Supplements
- How to Tackle Your Supplemental Essay
More College Advice