“Do you think a day can go by without you asking me where I want to go to college?” My daughter, who was a high school senior, asked me.
I smiled back, because I knew she was right. That’s all we’d been talking about for the past couple weeks as her decisions started rolling in.
“What are you going to to do make a final decision?” I replied.
“I don’t know. But I’ll let you know where I decide to go by May 1.”
“Ok, fine, no more questions.” But my mind kept churning the possibilities.
As you grapple with your own final decision of where to attend college by May 1, it may be helpful to think through the following issues.
Identify your needs. It’s easy to get caught up in the rankings, but instead stay focused on your needs, your interests, and which school is the best fit for you.
Focus on the reality of the school. As you revisit schools and speak with current and former students, figure out where you will be able to thrive academically and socially. Put aside your romanticized view of a school, and look at it with an open mind. Many students change their minds either because they did not get into their first choice, or because the realize that a school they initially though of as a safety school, was actually the best fit for them on all counts.
Figure out if you fit in socially. As you walk around campus do you see people with whom you will be friends? Ask students what they do for fun? Does it match your interests. Talk to as many different types of people that you can and gauge how comfortable you feel. Do you feel like you can be you? Do they get your sense of humor? How well do you mesh with the student body?
Review the curriculum. Dig deep in the curriculum and map out the classes you would take in your intended major to make sure you actually like them. Or if you are undecided, look at the requirements and see if they are things that interest you. If you are planning on majoring in architecture or engineering and you want a hands-on curriculum, see how many of the classes are actually hands on versus theoretical.
Research: How easy is it for you do research as an undergraduate? What is the process? Can you speak with students or a professor in your area of interest to find out what opportunities are available to you?
Explore the Campus: Pretend you are a student and take the transportation available. Walk to town. Drive to the nearest city. Figure out where the stores that you will be shopping at are located. Visit the student center, the gym, the dorms, the library, and any other common areas.
Check out Athletics: How easy will it be for you to participate in sports at the level you desire? If possible, can you attend a game? How much school spirit is there? Does it match your criteria?
Visual and Performing Arts: If you participated in the arts in high school and want to continue, how easy is it to do so? How many shows, music rooms, art rooms are available for majors vs. non-majors. How many performances are there each year?
Run the Numbers. Put together a spread sheet comparing all of your offers and calculate the full cost of attendance over four years. Make sure you are looking at your net out-of-pocket for each school. Determine how much debt you would have by the end. Graduate with as little debt as possible (we recommend no more than 2/3 of your anticipated first year income.) and you’ll be happy when you don’t have huge student loans hanging over your head! In
Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford University dean and author of How to Raise an Adult, gave a great interview on CBS This Morning How to select the college best suited for you.
Good luck making your final college decisions!