By May of your senior year, you should have received all of your college acceptance letters. Now comes the time to choose your school, this is the place where you will be spending the next four years of your life so it is an important decision to make.
Alright so lets say you got accepted to 2 or more universities. Going by your gut instinct you can probably cross one or two of them off on your list but if your parents still want you to consider them, give it some thought. Some things to consider when making your decision are:
- The education. Does it have a good program for your intended major? What about class sizes and teacher to student ratios? Are they what you would feel most comfortable with and provide the best environment to learn. Also, does it have other major programs? Most college students change their major a couple of times before graduating, so whatever school you choose should probably have at least one or two other options for you.
- The facilities. A big part of college is living on your own. What are the dorms like? Are they nice enough that you would be fine living there or are they tiny and dingy? Will you be able to live on campus for all four years if you want to or will you have to find an apartment or house off campus? What about laundry? Do you have to pay for it and is there a laundry room in your building with enough washers/dryers for the dorm?
- The socializing. Social interactions are a huge part of the college experience. So does the school have enough groups and organizations that you will be able to find people to get along with as well as expand your horizons by meeting new and different people. Are you interested in going Greek? Does the school have multiple sororities/ fraternities if you want to do so? Are you religious? Is there a place of worship in the area for you to attend? Are there student groups available so you can meet people with your shared beliefs? Do you enjoy watching sports? Does the school provide tickets to students or do you pay to attend games?
- The money. Unfortunately, college is expensive and so money plays a huge role in deciding where to go. Give careful consideration to the amount of scholarship money you would receive when attending there as well as the different prices in tuition. One school may give you more scholarship money but if the tuition is higher, you would still end up paying more than the other school. Also consider any scholarships you may have from sources other than the school. One of the reasons I stayed in South Carolina for college is because our state lottery pays for scholarships for students remaining in-state for college. Also any scholarships from organizations may restrict colleges for which the scholarship obey is valid.
- The size & location. These are both factors about a school that are impossible to change. You need to give careful consideration about the school’s population size. Do you want to be in a place where you know everyone? Or would you rather be in a place where you can constantly meet someone new? Is the campus small and enclosed or is it spread out? Is it located in a big city or a small college town? Which of these makes you feel more comfortable? Also consider the weather. I am definitely used to southern weather, so I would not enjoy going to school up in Michigan or New York because I would be miserable in the winter. Do you want to venture far from home, like my friend who went from living in Washington state to going to college across the country in South Carolina. Or would you prefer to be close enough to home to visit as frequently (or as infrequently) as you want?
- The safety. One unfortunate part of college life is the increased chance that something bad will happen. People are young and make bad decisions, drinking and staying out way past midnight also play a role in the increased risk of danger. Whether this danger is from people who go on campus to take advantage of college students or students who make poor choices, safety is a key part of any campus. What security measures are there? On my campus there are security stations located throughout campus that act as a direct line to the emergency operators who can dispatch police or medical services to the area. These poles are lit up and located within view of one another so that if you are running from an attacker you can hit each button as you run past and the police can follow your path. Also since our campus is so huge, we have our own police force. But thats not all of our security. In dorms, you need your student I.D. to be allowed into buildings and in mine there was a security desk that required all guests be checked in as well as monitored any suspicious characters. The police also offered a service through which you can register your more expensive possessions like computers, phones, cameras, bikes, gaming systems, etc. so that in case they are stolen, the police will have a record or what you own as well as the serial numbers on those items. This way if they find stolen items they will be able to return them to the owner. All of these security measures let me feel safe, which I greatly appreciate.
- Gut Feeling. How did you feel when you walked around campus? Did it just feel right for you? This is definitely something you should consider when making your choice. If you walked around campus and felt out of place, uncomfortable or unhappy and bored out of your mind then maybe thats not the place for you. This will be your HOME, so it should make you feel comfortable and safe as well as excited for the next step in your life. This gut feeling was especially important for me when I made my college decision. I had not originally planned on attending the University of South Carolina, I thought that it might be too big for me and that I wouldn’t want to live in Columbia, South Carolina. For a while I was positive that I would attend Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. I toured it and could really see myself going there. The funny part of this story was that we almost didn’t tour USC because it was the last of our college tours and my mom and I were kind of done with them at that point. But we figured since we signed up we might as well go. Its a good thing we did because I fell in love. I finally knew what people were talking about when they said “when you get there, you just know”. When the tour was over and we were in the car heading back home, I knew that USC was the place I was meant to be.
Choosing a college is no easy task. What matters most is choosing a place where you believe you will not only succeed but also expand your horizons and discover new things about yourself. Stay true to yourself, DON’T choose a college based on what other people want or expect you to do. Don’t go somewhere because that’s where your high school boyfriend or girlfriend is going. Relationships change in college and following someone to a school you don’t love will be something you will probably regret even if you stay with that person throughout college. Don’t let your family pressure you into going somewhere because its their alma mater or they really liked the school. They will be happy but in the end you won’t be. This is also the start of your life as an adult so you need to take charge and make adult decisions regarding your life and future.
Best of luck with your decision.