By: Gloria Zeyala, College Counselor
Congratulations! On your admissions to one, two, three colleges in some cases, maybe even ten. Now comes the most challenging part of the process — the decisions. Selecting the right fit is more about you than the school. Think of it this way: when you buy the perfect pair of jeans, they feel comfortable, look good, they make you feel good when you put them on. Well, selecting a college is like buying the perfect pair of jeans.
How do you decide? What should you consider? Is it just all about the money?
This is the perfect time to sit and reflect on what you see for your future. You need to think about life experiences and not just money or majors — the most successful college students take their personal needs into account when making their final choice. The goal is not to just be admitted; the goal is to graduate in four years and continue to an advanced degree or the job of your dreams.
How do you start this process?
Start by talking to your counselor, they often know you better than you think, and if they don’t, they will ask you challenging questions that will help you start to evaluate your options. It is essential to have an open mind. Last week, one of my students opened our conversation by saying, “I am going to community college.” When I asked him why, he said, “I don’t know.” We looked at his portals and considered his admissions decisions and their financial impact. We discovered that for him going to a four-year institution meant going to school for free. Now that we knew money was not the barrier, it was time to examine the other reasons stopping him from choosing a four-year college. He said, “I don’t want to live outside of my house and going to college means leaving my house.” We discussed the differences between commuting and living on campus. As we continued this conversation, he realized he could still help his family care for his siblings, and it would not be a financial burden on them.
So then, what else is left to consider? The college decision is different for every student; here are some things to consider as you make your plan:
- Money, compare financial aid awards, and remember what looks like a lot of money may be less than you think. When you compare financial aid awards, consider your cost of attendance vs. the funds given. Also, note how much gift money (money you don’t pay back) vs. loans you are awarded. Which of the two makes up the more significant part of your financial aid award?
- Location, do you want to stay close to home, or are you ready to spread your wings and become more independent and self-reliant?
- Housing, will you live at home or school- this will decision may change your college options.
- Major, were you accepted to your specific major- if not, how easy will it be for you to transfer into that major?
- Lastly, what do you like to do for fun? College is not all about books. You will have a lot more time on your hands than you realize — consider what clubs and organizations interest you — this will help you start to socialize with other students and get your bearings.
Remember to speak with your parents; even if they don’t have first-hand experience with college, they have life experience, which counts for a lot.