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Choosing the Right School for You

Colleges have made their choices, and now it is time for students in the class of 2014 to make theirs. High school seniors have until May 1st to make their final decisions about where they would like to study next fall, and for many, this is the biggest decision they have made in their lives. Here are some tips to help you sort it all out.

1. Revisit your original “wish” list. What were you looking for in a school when you started your search last fall? Was there a certain size of campus? Location? Price? Choice of major? Now look at the schools that have admitted you. Do they all fit these criteria? Have any of those criteria changed? Cross off any schools that clearly don’t meet your needs. Examples of this would be schools that don’t offer your major or field of interest, schools that you applied to because someone made you, or schools that you added to your list “just in case”.

2. Have a “back up” plan. By this I mean that just in case you decide NOT to be a brain surgeon or the next Picasso, be sure that your school will have some other major that interests you. More than 80% of freshmen change their minds about their intended major, often more than once! Many pre-med and other pre-health track students are “weeded out” of programs through the early science courses. You need to have flexibility so that you can explore new fields of study. If you are on the fence about being an engineer, choose the school that offers political science or economics in addition to engineering (and not the strictly technical school!).

3. Get on campus! This may be the single most important thing you can do to help you make the right choice. Take advantage of those admitted student revisit days. The colleges will roll out the red carpet for you! The shoe is on the other foot and they are trying to impress you instead of you trying to impress them. Visit a class, stay on campus overnight, try out the food and get a sense of the atmosphere on campus.

4. Think about distance and cost. How far away from home are you (and your parents) willing to go? If there is a plane flight involved, how often will you be able to get home? If you are the type of kid who will be miserable far from family, then take that into consideration when making your final choices.

5. Compare your financial aid packages. How much debt will you be in after four years? Are you planning on graduate/professional school? If you are, you might want to choose the less expensive option for your undergraduate degree (there is far less financial aid available for graduate school.)

6. Think about what you love. Make sure that there is something to do/see/try at your school that you will be happy doing, either as a field of study or in your spare time. You will need a break from the books at some point, and there needs to be something close by to make you truly happy; whether that is a beautiful hiking trail, a great restaurant, a service or literary club, or a sports team. It doesn’t matter as long as it is something you know you will enjoy. Students that have some place to explore or develop their passion are much more likely to stay (and graduate) from their original college.

7. Bear in mind that there is more than one “great fit” school for you! Most students can actually be happy and succeed at most colleges, so don’t worry about feeling that “magic” feeling or about “just knowing” that a place is right for you. Not all students experience that special moment. If your school offers the majors that interest you and the activities you know you enjoy, chances are you will fit right in. Don’t forget to make your deposit and housing arrangements. Finally, don’t forget to let other schools know that you will not be attending. Your reply will help them manage their waitlists and you might be giving someone else the chance to be admitted.