10 Strategies for Narrowing Down Which College is Right for You
How do you choose which college to go to when you’ve been accepted to more than a few of your top choices?
The answer can seem difficult, but these ten strategies will make it easier.
Take your time and go through each one; you’ll find that you have the answer by the time you’re done going through the list.
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1. Take Another Look at Your Short List
You’ve chosen and applied to a short list of your top colleges, and now that you’ve gotten accepted, you’re going to want to revise that list.
Take a moment to remember why you chose these colleges in the first place.
A good place to start is the question of financial aid.
- Will this school put you in debt?
- Can you use FAFSA to help ease the cost of school?
- Is the quality of the education you will receive a good tradeoff for the financial burden?
2. Get Your Priorities in Order
You have priorities when it comes to your college education, right?
Maybe the school size and location means something to you, or maybe it’s the unique programs that will be available to you.
Maybe there’s a specific degree you want that isn’t widely available, and that’s why a school is on your list.
Draw up the pros and cons of each school, then sit down and really think about what matters to you.
Whatever the top three priorities are for you, make sure the school you choose to attend has at least two.
3. Question Your Top Picks
College is supposed to work for you.The whole purpose is to get a good job in a career you love. So once you’ve gotten accepted to the colleges on your short list, make a point of returning to the college and asking some very specific questions, including questions about the career center, how many companies are interested in applicants with the degree you hope to get, what kind of FAFSA aid is available, and more.
We suggest compiling a list of at least 10 questions to ask while visiting. Make sure they answer your questions. If they can’t or won’t answer your questions, then it may be in your best interest to move on to another school.
4. The Endgame
You’re going to college, which means that you know what you want your career to be, at least in broad terms.
This is going to be important because some careers will have a better starting salary than others. That also means that some degrees will have specific financial burdens.
You’re going to need to ask yourself some important questions in order to help you understand the financial burden you’re putting on yourself.
- Will you have to take out loans for one school when you can get the same degree at a school that offers scholarships?
- Is your dream career hiring at the moment, and if so, what’s the starting salary?
- Will you be able to pay off any student loans with the job you want within five years?
5. Departments are as Important as College Reputation
It’s in your best interest to research on the department your major falls under.
- Which of your top picks have a strong academic reputation for that department?
- Is the faculty still active in that field?
- What unique features does that department have in any given school?
Keep these questions in mind when looking for a top school in your field of interest.
6. The Job Connection
In the end, college is all about getting a job.
You’re going to need to keep this in mind when looking at your top choices, because aside from that annual FAFSA deadline and your own coursework, a career is your ultimate goal.
So how do you check to see the job availability at a school?
It’s simple: check out the school’s career center.
It’s here where you can learn about internships for your major, job fairs, and a school’s career counseling program. The lesson to remember here is that you shouldn't attend a school that can’t help you land a job after graduation.
7. Pay Attention to Aid Awards
So you’ve got your top colleges in mind, and you’ve gotten accepted.
Now, have you thought about the aid packages those colleges offer?
You know, those packages that might reduce your cost of attendance.
Many colleges have specific aid available for their students, including scholarships, grants, loans, and even work-study programs.
It’s up to you to learn which are free and which come with terms and conditions, so make sure to read the fine print before applying.
8. Learn to Compromise (with Your Parents)
Compromising on your education is stressful, but if you’re lucky enough to have your parents’ support, you’re going to have to agree on a few things.
This usually has to do with paying for college and whether or not you’re going to need financial aid.
The best way to handle this is to talk about it openly and honestly with your parents.
Tell them your goals for your education and listen to what they have to say.
They may have some good advice for you, and while it may hurt to hear their concerns, you will at least understand how they feel about your college education.
9. Accept Rejection and Then Let It Go
Few things are harder than knowing you didn’t make it into your dream school.
In fact, the only thing harder than dealing with rejection is getting stuck on it and letting other opportunities go by.
You have other schools you picked out that would be great for you, so keep moving forward on your quest to get a great college education.
If that still doesn’t help you with the sting of missing out on a favored school, remember that rejection often leads you to better opportunities than the ones you thought were open to you.
Just ask J.K. Rowling or Elon Musk.
10. Get On It . . . Now!
When it comes to paying for college and those pesky payment deadlines, it’s important to start the process early.
You never want to be in a situation where your paperwork doesn’t go through due to a mistake and you miss out on needed funds because there wasn’t enough time to correct those mistakes.
Do yourself a favor and do some work every day to make sure that when you do get into your dream school, you also have the money to pay for it.
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