Posted By Ryan Duques
The long wait is over, and your inbox is (hopefully) overflowing with acceptances to colleges that would be proud to have you. Feels good, doesn’t it? Go ahead, bask in the glow.
But wait. How are you going to decide which school to go to?
It can seem like an overwhelming choice, but with a little research and a lot of firsthand exploration, you can make a decision that you’ll feel confident about.
It’s All (or Mostly) About the Money
“Heading off to college is one of the most exciting times in life, so it’s important to live in the moment,” says Attard. “But also remember to consider the effect your decisions will have on your future, especially when it comes to student loans.”
Attard recommends that students sit down with their parents or guardians and have a frank conversation about how much the family is willing to financially contribute to their education.
“When everyone is on the same page it makes the decision that much easier,” she says.
Myhre couldn’t agree more. She says it’s crucial to understand just how much debt you could be facing.
“It’s critically important to carefully review your financial aid packages with great care. What often appears to be an excellent package may actually be filled with loans that need to be paid back after graduation,” she warns. “The average loan package of a graduating [college] senior this year was $24,000…That works out to be approximately $266 per month for 10 years, regarding normal payback.”
When comparing financial aid packages, remember to “compare ‘apples to apples,’” Myhre continues. “If a less competitive college has offered you a merit award, don’t assume you can call a more competitive school and attempt to negotiate with them.”
Nothing Beats an On-Campus Visit
A college may look fantastic on paper, but how do you know if you’ll love it in reality? An on-campus visit can go a long way in helping you figure that out.
“Once you receive your acceptance letters, you should not only tour the campuses again, but see if you can shadow a student for the day or even stay overnight,” says Attard. “There’s nothing like getting firsthand experience.”
Adds Myhre, “I can’t stress how important it is to attend accepted student days, particularly if you’re still uncertain about your final decision. These visits give you the opportunity to take a closer look at the college, possibly attend a class, and meet other students who’ve also been accepted.”
You can also visit sites like Unigo, College Prowler, and StuVu to get the inside scoop from students who attend the schools. Apps like Admitted.ly also allow for comprehensive college visit planning.
But Remember: It’s Not the End of the World
Choosing a college to commit to for four years can seem like the biggest decision of your life. But, at the end of the day, the important thing to remember is it’s “all about balance.”
“Maybe one of your choices meets your social needs but not your career ones. Try to choose a college that meets all of your needs, but you may have to make a few sacrifices…Nothing is perfect,” reminds Attard. “Nothing is permanent. Maybe you end up choosing a college you thought would be a better fit than it turns out to be. You can always continue to look for what’s right for you.”