Those acceptance letters are pouring in and you now have to make a tough decision: where do you want to spend the next 4-5 years studying? (And living and having fun!)
I recommend that you and your family consider three questions.
- What college is the right academic fit? What you want to determine here is if the options for your major (or majors) are offered at the college you want to attend. (A major is an academic area that you emphasize in college by taking many courses in that one subject.) If you are considering a major in broadcast journalism, for example, you want to be sure your first choice college has that particular major. It may have journalism in general, or print journalism, or communication as a major, so you’ll need to decide if that’s good enough.
- What college is the right social fit? This is the time for you to consider the atmosphere of the college – highly intellectual, laid back and relaxed, party central. Do you want to be in an urban environment, rural or someplace in between? Do some research on the amount and types of clubs and organizations that are there and think about what you’d like to be doing outside the classroom. The university where I work has over 600 clubs - groups that are serious about politics, groups that get together and knit, cinema groups, fraternities and sororities, ethnically diverse groups like MECHA and Unidas Seremos, the Black Student Union and Sisterhood, the Polynesian Student Association, and the Cambodian Student Association, just to name a few. As you can see there are many different clubs on campus to choose from – but are there some that YOU are interested in?
- What college is a good financial fit? Yes, you do have to decide what you and your family can afford. Make sure you understand your financial aid package and if you don’t, ask questions until it’s clear. At some schools, public and private, you have some negotiating room to request more aid or a different type of aid (for example, “Hello, Financial Aid Office. I’d really like to go to X College, but Y College offered me $2000 less in loans and more in scholarship money. Is there any way you can increase my scholarship award?”). It doesn’t hurt to ask, but that doesn’t mean they’ll say yes. And there are some colleges that have no wiggle room. What your financial aid package says is the final word. Doesn’t hurt to ask, though. (When thinking of finances, you might also want to think about how far away from family you want to be. If it’s too expensive for you to come home for every break, are you okay with that? Are your parents or guardians okay with that?)
So what does all this mean? If you can find a college that has everything you are looking for and a financial aid package that works for you, you are all set – send in your enrollment deposit to hold your place in the class.
If, however, the college that’s your top choice only offers some of what you really want (and can’t live without), then you have to decide what’s most important to you and examine your expectations of college.
Once you make the decision about where you want to go, send in your deposit to ensure your place in the freshman class. Then make sure you plan to attend orientation and get any on-campus housing information in by the college’s deadline, if you decide to live on campus, to be sure you have a place to live.
After that, it’s all about your attitude. Maybe the college you end up selecting isn’t your first choice or your dream college. You can cry and moan over the place where you couldn’t go, or you can decide to make the most of the opportunities offered at the college you ARE going to. Take it from me, who went to her second choice college – I had an amazing college experience and have no regrets about where I went to school!
What do you think? What else should be included when you consider which college to select? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Good luck! Make the most of your college experience. And congratulations on your acceptance to college!