SIFTING THROUGH YOUR COLLEGE OPTIONS
If you’re a senior and you created a balanced college list, you should by now have some nice options for colleges that would be a good fit for you. So now comes the fun and truly exciting (and a little nerve-wracking) part: deciding on the one college that works best for you.
What process should you go through to make this decision?
First, think back on what you were looking for back when you made your list and applied. After all, it was at least 6 months ago, and a lot of teenage development has happened since then. Sometimes the factors you homed in on a few months ago are still exactly what you’re looking for. But maybe you’ve changed your mind slightly. Or maybe a lot. Were you okay with a school that had a significant amount of Greek life before, but now you’d really rather have less Greek life? Were you leaning more towards living on campus all four years, but now you’d like to choose a place that has options for living off campus? Were you more interested in a really large campus, but now you’d want one that’s a little smaller? Fine tune your priorities.
I love spreadsheets and charts, and I find them super useful at this stage. I highly recommend that you create a spreadsheet where you can rate each of your priorities for each college that you were accepted to.
Verify which majors you were either accepted into or you’re interested in. Make sure that you’re going to be able to study what you are most interested in. If you’re still undecided (and remember that most college students change the majors at least once), be sure there are a few options that float your boat.
Pare your choices down to a small handful and then go visit! Ideally, go to an admitted students day so that you can lay eyes on (or even meet) some students who will start college with you. Try to picture yourself on each campus you visit. Try to talk with current students. Ask them how they met their friends, what they love about their college and what they’d change if they could. Go off campus, too, to make sure that you’re comfortable with the local town and the surroundings.
Check out social media posts from clubs and organizations at each college you’ve been accepted to. You will be able to see current students in action: what they’re interested in, what they’re passionate about. Are these people you can relate to? That you’d want to hang out with? Remember that pictures on college marketing materials are just that…marketing. Colleges can look very diverse in brochures, and often students are surprised at the actual level of diversity on campus.
And then you just have to decide. Look at the data you’ve collected. Where can you picture yourself the most? If you’re still struggling to make a decision, try flipping a coin or using a magic 8 ball (I have one if you need it!); sometimes being forced into a decision will reveal how we’re really feeling. Once you decide in your mind which college is best for you, try it on for size for about a week if you can. Tell people where you’re planning to go. How does that feel?! If it doesn’t feel quite right, maybe you need to go back and reconsider. If it feels great, go ahead and pay your deposit. And don’t forget to tell all the colleges that you’re not planning to attend.
Once you choose the college that’s best for you (and remember, you’re NOT choosing the college that’s best for your parents or grandparents or friends), don’t look back. Go all in. Buy some merchandise, add your profile to class pages, join the social media pages. Know that the college that you’ve chosen will not be perfect. There will be parts of it that you find disappointing or frustrating. But the more that you can be invested in it and really try to make it work, the happier and more engaged you’ll be.
I help students and their families navigate the college admissions process. I empower students to figure out who they are and where they belong, and I provide structure, insight, and enthusiasm as we find colleges that are the best fit academically, socially, and financially. Contact me at email@example.com for a 30 minute complimentary session to learn more!