From getting the grades to the application process to the waiting game to choosing a major and a college and preparing for the future… it is no surprise that the entire college process is incredibly stressful.
Especially with over 65% of high school graduates in the US enrolling in colleges or universities, the pressure to get into your “perfect school” and decide which of those schools is, in fact, that “perfect school” is overwhelming.
The time between when you apply and when you receive your acceptance or rejection letters is the best time to create a game plan about which schools are your top choices, if you have not already.
When I went through this process, just last year, I got rejected from my top choice school and had not prepared a second choice.
So I sat down, looked at the other schools that I had applied and been accepted to, and went through this 9 step system to deciding which college was the best match for me.
So whether you are trying to decide between the schools you got accepted to, waiting for the acceptance letters and preparing, or just now starting to think about what schools to apply to, hopefully my 9 step system will help you in your process of choosing the right college!
This step is more if you haven’t applied to schools yet and are trying to decide which type of school to go to. Ask yourself some of these questions to narrow down what you are looking for:
- 4 year university or 2 year community college?
- Public or private school? (Don’t worry, I wasn’t sure about this one either!)
- Co-Ed or all same gender?
- Religiously affiliated or not?
- Do you want to live on campus?
- Does the distance from home matter? If so, how far away or how close do you want the school?
- In state or out of state? In the country or out of the country?
Answering these questions should help you to begin to narrow down what you are looking for.
This was the big selling point of my college. How much money can you or your family afford to put into college? It is important that you have a set budget to ensure that you don’t go over. Stick to the budget. Would you be willing to take out loans? Have you looked into scholarships? Grants? All of these things can be incredible factors in helping bring down the cost of an expensive school.
By this point I was choosing between a couple of schools, and after I applied and got accepted to one of them (an expensive private university) they gave me a scholarship for theatre that paid for more than half of my tuition. This made the expensive private university within my price range, while the inexpensive state school was just out of reach. (Spoiler alert – I ended up going to the private university!)
Do you know what you want to major in yet? Don’t worry if you don’t know for sure, but do you at least know what you’re interested in? Which departments is it incredibly important to you that the school not only has, but has a strong one of? Not every school offers every major so it is important that, even if you aren’t sure what you want to major in yet, that you go to a place where you will have the ability to explore the departments that you are interested in.
Do some research into the programs and the professors at the schools you are considering. Look into how strong the departments of your interest are and if you feel they would be a good fit for you.
If you have not yet applied to the schools, take the leap and do so now! After all, you can’t go to a school you haven’t been accepted to!
The time between applying and hearing back from the school is the worst and most stressful waiting game ever. But don’t lose hope! You’ll hear back soon.
I’m sure that by now you’ve memorized the campus brochures and pictures online by heart. Have you gone to check out the campus in person yet? Do that! Even if you went on a tour or walked around the area prior to being accepted, doing it again after you’ve gotten that acceptance letter is a huge help. Once you know that the school wants you as much as you want it everything tends to be cast in a different light when you’re walking around. It’s important to see the campus and the location in this perspective as you are now free to picture yourself spending time there.
While you are on this step, take the time to look at the location of the school. Distance from home, environment, climate, and surrounding cities but all be major factors in your decision making process.
We aren’t done yet! But why don’t you share this infographic around
to help others looking for help to choose their college?
The last 4 steps are below this graphic, scroll down!
Do some research similar to that which you did about your major department in step 3, but this time look into the extracurricular activities that you are interested. Does the school have a female tennis team? What about a good theatre program? Does it offer sign language classes? Whichever activities that you enjoy doing in your free time, see which schools offer them!
One of the biggest reasons that I’ve heard people choose a specific school over another is because of the people. Some schools are really competitive, and if that is the environment of people you are looking for and that is right for you; go for it! Most people, however, tend to enjoy campuses that have more of a friendly environment and vibe to them.
When you visited the campus, did the people seem friendly? Open to helping you? Did the campus resources seem like they would help you in your college career and maybe even after you graduate? These are the people you are going to be spending the next couple of years around, it’s important that you feel like you fit in and are welcomed!
Are you planning on living on campus? Usually this depends on the location and distance from your house. If you are planning on living on campus make sure you look into the housing options and where you would be living for the next few years.
Does the dorm have air conditioning? Is it suite style or one room? Do you have to go down the hall to go to the bathroom, and are they co-ed? Most importantly, do you feel like you would be comfortable in this environment?
When it comes down to it, no amount of statistics or pro/con lists can truly decide what you should do with your future. After looking at all of these aspects of every school you are considering, you will probably have some sort of gut feeling about what you should go with. Follow your instincts.
Remember: You will be happy no matter where you end up. Your future does not depend on one specific school. You are more than the school you attend. You can do this!
Are you in the process of choosing a school: did this help you? Are you already in school: do you have any advice for those who are in the process right now? Share in the comments below!