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No matter what your options are, choosing a college is rarely a clear or easy choice. While you might be itching to make a decision, move into your dorm and start your classes already, there are numerous important factors to consider before taking this important step. After all, this is a decision that will affect at least the next 4 years of your life—it might even end up affecting your whole life.

 

There are many factors to take into account before choosing which college to attend. These include campus culture, academics, affordability, and even fit. While it might feel overwhelming or scary, thinking these things through before choosing a college will no doubt benefit you in the long run and help you to make the most informed decision possible. Keep reading to see what questions you should be asking yourself before you commit to a college!

 

 

1. What’s the campus culture like?

It’s important, first of all, to consider the student body and the campus culture of a given school before deciding if you should go there. After all, these are your future classmates, friends, partners, coworkers, and collaborators.

 

Think about the students from a given school that you’ve met—especially you’ve done a campus visit. Consider the tour guides, students walking around campus, student hosts, and other people that you might have had conversations with during your visit. Did you feel welcomed by these people? Did you have a little or a lot in common with them? Did you feel that you shared their values or interests? Pay attention to how students act while they’re on campus. Do they appear stressed? Relaxed? Do they look happy, angry, sad?

 

You also may want to consider whether or not students and alum speak highly of their experience at a given school, keeping in mind that no two people have the same college experience. No one will be happy 100% of the time in college, each person has their ups and downs just as you will once you get to school. In general, though, be sure to ask yourself whether or not students seem satisfied with their experience.

 

 

2. Can I afford it?

For many families, financial aid (or lack thereof) can be a huge factor in deciding where you are able to go to school.

 

Think about the schools that you have been accepted to. Were you offered financial aid there? What was the financial aid package like? Was it generous or unreasonable? Have you been awarded merit-based or need-based aid? Would you or your parents need to take out loans to pay for school? If so, how much? How long would it take to pay off these loans?

 

Talk to your parents and ask them how it will affect your family’s finances. Would it be realistic to attend this school?

 

If your financial aid package for a school that you’d really like to attend is less-than-ideal, think about how you can obtain other sources of funding. Maybe you could work a summer job or obtain outside scholarships.

 

You might also be able to leverage a certain school using your financial aid offer from another institution. Take a look at these posts for more information and advice on affording college:

 

How to Evaluate, Compare, and Leverage Financial Aid

10 Weird College Scholarships You Should Consider

How Do I Take Out a Federal Direct Student Loan?

 

 

3. What are the academics like?

Think about the academic program at a given school, keeping in mind what worked and didn’t work for you academically in high school. Do you think that this school would be an improvement, and if so, how? What are the classes like there? Do students usually get to take the classes that they like? What does the registration process look like?

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If you’re not sure exactly which courses are offered or how to register for them, try looking at the school’s course catalogue or directory online. You should also try to sit in on classes during your campus visit if at all possible.

 

You may also want to consider how much individualized attention you will get at this school. How big is your major? Is it easy to get classes in this department? What’s the student to faculty ratio? Is it easy to get individualized attention from professors? This is an extremely important aspect to consider, keeping in mind that faculty connections can become mentors who will offer you guidance and can even help you make career connections early-on.

 

 

4. Can I stay afloat?

Think about the rigor of the academic program at the school you are considering. Do you think you would be able to handle it?

 

Important questions to ask yourself in terms of “staying afloat” include: how many courses do students usually take at a time at this school? How demanding is your major? What extracurriculars, activities, and other time commitments do you plan on participating in during college? How much time will these things take up, and will you still have time for school? How will you manage stress and keep yourself organized during college?

 

 

5. Will I be challenged adequately?

Maybe you’re worried that you won’t be challenged enough during college.

 

Ask yourself: are there students at this school who can match you intellectually? Will you be challenged and pushed into new experiences there? Will you be encouraged to leave your comfort zone, encouraged to grow? How?

 

While you don’t want to be too stressed out during college, consider whether or not this school will allow you to be your best self academically, intellectually, and socially.

 

 

6. Can I see myself there?

While this blog post has posed a lot of questions that you should ask yourself when deciding on a school, sometimes you can ask yourself all of these questions and still feel unsure. Sometimes, you simply feel that it’s right, or that it isn’t. In this case, there is one final question that you can ask yourself: Can I see myself there?

 

If you can envision yourself happily walking about the campus, stopping to buy a coffee between class or meeting up with friends in the quad, then it might be the right place for you. On the other hand, if you simply can’t form a mental picture of yourself at this school, then it might not be right for you.

 

If you find that you can’t see yourself at a certain school, then there’s a fair chance that you’re having some serious doubts—this is not to say that you shouldn’t attend a certain school if you are having doubts about it, but it’s important to address any doubts that you may have before making such a huge decision.

 

 

Conclusion

Asking yourself questions before committing to a college is crucial. It will help you figure out what’s best for you and, it will allow you to set intentions for the next 4 years and become clearer on what you would like your college experience to be like.

 

Keep in mind that every college experience is different for everyone, and an experience that might have been great for one person might be horrible for another person. It’s all about finding the school that is the right fit for you.

 

So, while you’re asking these questions, be sure to think long and hard about who you are, what your goals are and what you want out of life. You might just end up finding yourself a great college experience along the way!

 

Check out these blog posts for more advice on choosing a college:

 

Choosing a College: How to Get Started

What to Consider When Applying to and Choosing Colleges

Having Trouble Choosing a School within a College or Deciding on an Intended Major? Here are some Tips

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Devin Barricklow

Devin Barricklow

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Devin Barricklow is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Columbia University. She’s really excited to be able to share her expertise about the college process with students who need advice. When she isn’t writing for CollegeVine, she enjoys reading the poems of Mary Oliver, going to concerts in the city, or cooking (preferably something with lots of bok choy and ginger).
Devin Barricklow