How to Choose a College

How Spring has arrived and few things say new beginnings like college does. With May 1– affectionately known as Decision Day – just a few weeks away, high school seniors are getting ready to choose which college to yes to and send in their enrollment deposits. For some, deciding which college acceptance to accept can be scary and nerve-wracking because it is such an important choice to make. I found it best to decide based on three self-defined important factors: academics, location, and student life.

Academics and choice of majors is almost always the first factor considered when making the decision. If a school has your intended major that’s always great, but if you’re pursuing a liberal arts education and a school you really like doesn’t offer a program you want to study, that’s not always a reason to immediately write it off. If you’re thinking about employment after college, I would advise you to see if the skill set your intended field requires can be learned through a different field of study at that school. A variety of course offerings is also an interesting aspect to look at. Part of the reason college is such a great experience is because of the exposure it allows for, and a wide selection of classes across disciplines accomplishes that.

Location can be a key factor in deciding where you might spend the next four years of your life. Figure out what kind of setting would work best for the kind of person you are. Having grown up in New York City, being close enough to a city that I could visit was important to me, but I did not want to be directly in a city so as to not get distracted. While you might expect to spend a lot of time on campus, keep in mind you are going to be living in the town or city campus is located in.

Student life at college may not be the first thing you think about when thinking of schools, but it can play a significant role in your college experience. The social scene at school should be one that matches your character and personality. What are the important social aspects of campus life to you? Figure out and look up how a school matches up to your criteria. If Greek life is something that you want to get involved in, look up how many people go Greek; if you’re a more studious person would it be wise to go somewhere where partying is a dominant activity on the weekends? It is possible that your views and habits may change once you get on campus but I’d advise going to college having some sort of idea what to expect.

In writing this, I do not mean to discredit other factors that go into making a decision but encourage you to think about the different facets of college life and how you fit in. You had a reason for applying to the schools you did, remember that. Like most things you invest in, it helps to get feedback from those who have already made the investment as well as to sample it yourself. So, get in touch with someone at the schools you’re thinking about saying yes to (Facebook is great for that) and, if possible, visit.  

Congratulations and much luck to you all embarking on this great next step in life. The frustration with the Common App, anxiety from waiting for decisions, and stress about choosing will all be worth it eventually.