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.
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
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.”