Congrats on receiving your acceptance letters. You have probably been busy searching social media accounts and many school websites, trying to figure out which school to attend. Generally, you have until May 1st to make your school choice. If you have not had the opportunity to visit, it can be even more difficult to decide. Luckily, there are many ways you can get a feel for what life may be like at different campuses.
Speaking with recent grads and current students can help you learn more about potential schools. You may be set up through the school if you ask. Check out the student media from the school via blogs, websites and newspapers. There are probably different virtual tour options to discover. It may be tricky to choose your school even with all these choices. Consider the following options to help you pick.
How much is each option?
Fees, room and board, tuition costs, etc. can vary widely from each location. The costs range significantly when you factor in scholarships and financial aid. Typically, private schools cost more than public schools. Normally, urban schools are more expensive compared to rurally-located ones. You also need to factor in housing and additional costs.
Professional and academic possibilities
When comparing two schools that have similar rankings, there may be one that is stronger in the expertise you are looking to study. In addition to looking at the main school websites, be sure to check out the department websites. Look at your desired major at the various schools you are considering. Look at the professors who will be teaching your classes. Sometimes, there will be a strong desire to learn from a particular teacher who is a leader in your field.
It may seem like graduate school applications or searching for jobs seem years away, these opportunities will come much faster than you anticipate. Your professional future can be directly attached to your school's ranking. Maybe a certain school has a stronger network or career office in your specialized field.
The student body and culture
Small and large colleges alike have a variety of students with different priorities and backgrounds. The general school culture is essential to take into account. Decide if you are seeking an academic experience that is serious or looking for a more casual and fun atmosphere.
Ideally, you may wish to attend a school where you are meeting folks with similar interests. Find out which organizations and clubs are prominent at the school to get a view of popular interest groups. Are you seeking a high level of sports and rallies and football games? Are you passionate about art or STEM activities? Perhaps, you have a strong sense of social justice and want to find a school that has a variety of activist organizations.
Current students and admissions officers can help you get more information. Learning about what kinds of events and traditions the school celebrates are also important. For example, if you don't like crowds or loud music, and your potential school enjoys a large annual music festival, you may want to reconsider.
The size of the school is another consideration. Are you looking for a smaller student body? Are you hoping for fewer people and a familiar atmosphere? Maybe you are hoping for more anonymity and a larger population and looking forward to meeting more people? Once you can pinpoint your priorities, it will help you narrow down your choices.
Obviously, the facilities and the academics are both vital components of your college experience. Science majors will be wanting to find state-of-the-art labs. Research majors will be wanting equipped libraries. Note the dorms, their size, location and space; especially if you are planning to live on campus. Check out the common areas where student unions gather and other locations that will be involved with your sense of community and your social life.
Is an urban environment important to you? Would you prefer to attend a more remote school campus? Which type of setting will allow you to thrive? A rural setting may offer more career or cultural opportunities; however, a central location may offer a more traditional college experience. How far is your campus away from home? Will you have to factor in travel expenses to get home for the holidays?
Your deciding factors
There is no simple deciding factor or one "right" choice when it comes to picking your school. You will know which decision is right for you. Even if the school is ranked on paper as being number one, you will have to determine if it is the best match for our goals, personality, and circumstances. It is important to get the most out of your college experience. Learning as much as you can ahead of time and being honest with what you find out along the way can help you make the best decision.