It is that time of year again. College admission decisions are flying in and students are trying to figure out where they’ll be moving in the fall. Many students find themselves with several acceptances and struggle to make that final, crucial, decision. Even students who got into their dream college should sit down and think through their options prior to saying “yes”. We’ve compiled a list of some things for students to consider as they ponder their choices.
- Wait for financial aid packets:
When students find out they’ve been accepted to the top school on their application list, the temptation is often to confirm attendance as quickly as possible. This is generally a poor decision. Students have until May 1st to respond and they should be patient and wait until they’ve heard from all their applicant schools and received financial aid info before committing to any one institution. It’s always a bad idea to buy something without looking at the price tag. Comparing the final out-of-pocket price and the amount of debt that students will incur for each college is a vital part of the decision process. Students should also remember that loans are real money. Just because you don’t have to pay right this minute, doesn’t mean that that particular school is a good deal! Financial aid awards can be drastically different at different institutions, so crunch the numbers.
- Consider plans after college:
Students often see college as the end goal. They’ve been working toward college for so long that they tend to forget that college is just a stepping stone to a career. Many of those careers require additional schooling in the form of graduate programs. When selecting a college students should consider how the colleges may set them up for success in grad school or in a career. Financials are especially important for a student who is looking at an additional few years of schooling after college. If a student hopes to attend law school or med school, they should be careful not to deplete any cash resources they have just to get through undergrad. In addition, students might look for the school that has the best track record for helping its graduates gain admission into the grad program they are hoping to complete.
- Weigh program strengths and weaknesses:
Students often choose their campus based on gut feeling or on a ranking list. The higher rank on the national list must be the best choice, right? Not always. The same college might be great for one student and terrible for another. Students need to consider which school will give them the best education. After all, that’s the reason they’re paying for college. While a school might be high up on a national ranking list, that doesn’t mean all of their majors are high ranking in and of themselves. Every school has programs that are stronger and others that are weaker. Consider program strength, not just overall college ranking. A school might be highly nationally ranked because they have world-class humanities programs which dominates the school, but if a student is studying chemistry, the humanities department is rather irrelevant.
- Imagine life on campus:
This is number four for a reason. It’s the last thing that students should consider, but it should be considered nonetheless. Occasionally a college just isn’t right for a student. Students should be careful not to make the decision based on any minor issues: every college will have one or two minor issues. However, large issues that would lead a student to being uncomfortable or miserable for four years should eliminate that college from contention. Maybe they applied to the local large university as a backup, when really they would feel lost on the giant campus. Maybe they applied to a foreign school for fun when they can’t see themselves moving overseas. These are important considerations beyond just “the campus isn’t as pretty as I want” and should be taken seriously.
While there are other factors to consider, these big four will set you up to make the best decision you can. If you’re still struggling, ask for help from parents, or a college counselor. If you’d like to chat with one of our counselors about your options, we’d be happy to help!
Happy College Decision Season!