If you are reading this post, a pretty huge congratulations is due because you did it! You got into college, and that alone is an immensely significant feat to be proud of.
Now, chances are, you are faced by a whole new kind of problem: making the choice. Every single school, no matter how similar at face value it may seem, is distinguishable by some kind of unique attribute. Different location. Different size. Different AP credit transferring… Nevertheless, it’s time to be narrowing in on “the one,” so how do you start?
1. Try to Visit
The more potential schools that you can see in person, the better – particularly the ones that you have yet to visit before. There truly is nothing that can replace the gut reaction that you get when walking on campus. You can assess the dorms, the cafeterias, and the current students all in person. There’s a stark distinction in experience between seeing a school to decide if you’ll apply and seeing a school to decide if you could actually spend the next four years of your life there (yikes!). After sending out acceptances, most colleges will have some form of “On Campus Days,” where they host all of the prospective newcomers at one time for a pre-orientation hoorah. If it’s feasible, these sessions are certainly worth considering; aside from being high energy, they’re usually very informational too. However, if making a trip to tour just doesn’t work out schedule or budget-wise, don’t stress! There are plenty of other ways to get a more accurate read on a college, which takes us to our next point.
2. Join the School’s Facebook Group
If you are currently thinking to yourself, “But Elise [because we are on a first name basis], I don’t have a Facebook!” Get one. No, seriously my friend – it’s time. Social media is truly invaluable to college acceptance season because just about every school will make a closed group strictly for that year’s admitted students, for example: Pamona College Class of 2019. All you have to do is request to join, and the group’s admins (who are typically admissions officers or people of like authority) will let you in.
Not only are these Facebook groups amazing places to get your myriad of questions directly answered, they also can give you some sense for what kinds of classmates you’d have. Granted, the entire student body should not be based upon a couple hundred active participants, but it provides a decent sample size. It’s also not uncommon for current upperclassman to be in the group, giving unbiased responses about social life, particular educational programs, clubs, athletics, and so on. You get to find those who have similar majors, enjoy similar hobbies, or are from similar places in the country and chat them up. Or, if you are looking at what people are posting and thinking,
then that’s something to take note of too.
3. T-Chart It
Is this ridiculously old school? Yes. Is it effective? Well, I definitely think so. Take the schools that you are torn between and set up a T-chart (Excel spreadsheets work particularly well). Start setting up a direct comparison of one to the other: is the campus urban or rural? Is it a sports or liberal arts school? How much is tuition? How much financial aid were you given? How many students attend? What are class sizes? What is your declared major? Do they accommodate study abroad? There are endless things that you can have as qualifiers for each school, so feel free to stick to the ones more important to you. By aligning all of the facts, you can ensure that you are making the most educated decision that you can; it keeps everything straight and just that must easier during this relatively high-stress (but high-excitement!) time of senior year.
It’s not news that there’s a lot that goes into confidently committing to a college. One way or another, you will find yourself having to compromise, but remember that even having options to choose from is an absolute privilege. No matter what happens, there is a very good chance that, if you keep an open mind, you’ll wind up thriving.