Graduates throwing their caps in the air, surrounded by different colored question marks in thought  bubbles. Making your college decision is a hard choice, but it will be the best choice for you. Illustration by Hannah Nellen.

When it comes to making the best college decision, many high school students question what fits their best interest. Just because a school is labeled as the best doesn’t mean it’s the best for everyone. Not every student wants to live in a big city or have the same major, student concentration, or campus. Many factors play into making a fulfilling decision, but the perfect combination varies for each person, and may even change over time. To make your decision as fulfilling as possible, consider this advice while making the best decision for you. Since college decision day has passed, here are some small things I have learned along the way.

Consider a College’s Location:

One factor you should always consider when choosing a college is the location. Do you want to commute to campus or live there? Do you want to live close to family and friends or move further away? Is there a specific place or country you want to go to college in? An important thing to note is that you shouldn’t choose a college only because of its location, as the location is just one of many vital factors to consider while narrowing down your options. 

Evaluate Your Scholarships, Aid, and Cost:

As you work towards your final decision, you want to evaluate the costs of your potential colleges. You can begin by considering any scholarships you might have access to for your undergraduate studies. While some scholarships allow you to fund your education at any school, others might only be for a specific university. You can also compare the costs of schools by looking up the tuition. Keep in mind that if you live on campus in a dorm or an apartment, you’ll have extra costs on top of the tuition. It is also helpful to consider how you’ll pay for your schooling. Do you have enough money in the bank to pay out of pocket, or will you have to take out student loans? You will need a plan for paying tuition before selecting a school. Bella Scholl, a senior at Franklin says, “Some of the biggest factors that came into my decision were cost, academics, location, and environment. Since I knew I wanted to go out of state, cost was a big part of my decision… [University of Vermont (UVM)] was the cheapest out of all my options.”

Research the Curriculum and Programs:

Look at the curriculum and the selection of programs each college offers. If you have an idea of what you want to major in, you can start narrowing down your options based on which school does or does not offer that major. Grace Jones, a senior at Franklin says, “I mainly chose to go to Seattle University because they have an amazing nursing program.” Browse through the major’s department to see the different opportunities, formats, and requirements that come with your field of study. For example, many colleges have condensed time programs to complete your undergrad, graduate and even masters in a shorter period of time. Scholl says, “Not only does UVM have an environmental school, but they also offer an accelerated law track, that you can complete in just five years.” Keep it in mind that ​different schools can take different approaches to the same field of study, so don’t expect the same major to be offered in the same way, as many majors programs have different requirements and classes provided. 

Campus Life and Community:

Picking the right college also requires choosing one that has a community in which you can thrive. Community life refers to the programs, opportunities and clubs that students have available to them, that allow you to fully immerse yourself in the school and have an amazing experience. College provides opportunities for self-growth and memorable experiences. “The school environment [was] really important to me when making my decision, so the different clubs and organizations definitely swayed me,” Scholl says. Other factors of campus life include campus staff, professors, and sports.

Visiting Schools:

One of the best things you can do to make your crucial decision is to visit the schools themselves. You can visit one or many, but you should always try to see a college in person before choosing it, if possible. Although many colleges have amazing, detailed, websites, nothing fully compares to seeing and experiencing it in person. First, make sure you plan your visits so you have enough time at each college. In other words, don’t rush through the visits. Instead, take your time and enjoy viewing the colleges. Next, you might want to take notes and pictures while you’re there. You’ll remember each school by doing this, and you’ll have something to compare it to when you make your decision. Finally, take some time to explore the surrounding area. While you may spend most of your time on campus, you’ll also get opportunities to spend in the community. 

Even though May 1, also known as decision day, can be a scary time, making college decisions should be an activity to enjoy. Although there is much to consider, remember that whatever decision you make, it will be amazing for your journey. Additionally, despite the fact that making the choice seems very binding, remember it isn’t the final decision towards achieving your future. To all the 2023 graduates: Congratulations on your college decisions!

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