12th Graders: What You Need to Know About Finalizing College Plans
Once college decisions have rolled in, many seniors breathe a sigh of relief. For better or worse, the agony of waiting is over and now you can begin to make plans, look forward to the summer, and finalize your college choice.
Sometimes, the final college decision is easier to make than others. Some students have a single dream school in mind that they’ve thoroughly researched and plan to attend should they receive an acceptance. Other students aren’t so sure.
Whether you have your heart set on a single school or not, there are still some important considerations you should make before committing to a college. If you want to learn what you need to know about finalizing college plans, don’t miss this post.
1. Narrow Down Your Options
If you’re among the lucky ones, you received more than one acceptance. In this case, you need to narrow your options down before you do any in-depth research. Be certain that you recognize two or three schools as top choices by reviewing your pro/con lists.
Also consider any changes in your priorities or personal situation that may have arisen since you applied to colleges. Do you suddenly need to be close to home? Has your financial situation changed? Have you chosen a more specific program or major?
These are all significant changes that aren’t entirely uncommon. Take a hard look at your own priorities before you lock into a single college choice.
2. Compare Costs
Once you’ve narrowed your options down to two or three schools, it’s time to consider the finances. Finances are a really important consideration that often make or break a decision. You’ll need to do a comprehensive cost comparison to really get an idea of how they stack up. While most schools are upfront about tuition costs, the additional costs of housing, meals, books, and other supplies can really add up. You should also factor transportation costs into your final decision.
You’ll also need to compare the financial aid and/or scholarship packages that you’ve been offered. Your top choice might not seem so attractive anymore if you consider the hefty loans you could be paying off for decades.
While it’s difficult to get past the initial excitement, you should try to make a smart decision that will prioritize a quality education without making you broke in the process.
3. Visit Campuses Again
Once you’ve established that you can afford the school, try to visit campus after you’ve been accepted, even if you already have. This time, walk around campus and imagine yourself there. Visit the places you’d likely frequent if you were a student there. Sit on the quad with a book and get a feel for the community. Wander the student center and the library. Imagine yourself studying or hanging out with friends.
In addition, explore the college’s surroundings. Is it urban, rural, or suburban? What resources are nearby? Is there a college town with restaurants and cafes? Take a stroll or a slow drive around the campus to get a feel for its greater surroundings and try to factor these into your existing pro/con list.
4. Consider Logistics
While the costs of meal plans, housing, and transportation may seem straightforward, there are actually multiple options you should consider. At some schools, freshman are required to live on campus, making other housing choices a non-issue. Even at these schools though, you’ll need to think about the housing costs both on- and off-campus after freshman year.
If you’ll be living off-campus, you should take a second look at meal plans. It might be smart to still opt for a comprehensive meal plan; many students do so because they can’t cook, don’t enjoy cooking, or want to save themselves time. Still, eating off-campus can sometimes save significant money. If you are looking for ways to economize, try learning a few simple, healthy meals, and consider e packing sandwiches for lunch and breakfasts. Alternatively, consider a more minimal meal plan that might provide for dinners each day.
Transportation is another consideration. You need to think about how you’ll get to and from campus, as well as how you’ll get around once you’re there. Odds are that you will want to visit grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants. Are these within walking distance? Are you bringing a bike to campus? How convenient is public transportation? These are great questions to ask current students. If you don’t know anyone you can ask, consider posting them on social media groups for current or admitted students.
5. Make a Final Decision
Final college commitments are due by May 1 each year. For many students, choosing a college is the first of many important decisions that you’ll need to make on your own as you become more and more responsible and mature. Take time to consider your options, review the pros and cons of each, and discuss your choices with trusted mentors before you commit. Sometimes it’s hard to describe what it is that draws you to a school; it just feels right.
Need more guidance in choosing a college, compiling a college list, or preparing for college applications? Consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from course selection and extracurriculars to college applications and career aspirations, all from successful college students.
For more insights into how to make a college list, check out these CollegeVine posts:
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