Raysha Duncan Purdue University Student and Peer Counselor
Congratulations! You’ve been accepted into the top 5 colleges of your dreams! Your future is bright and many good things will come in your future…the typical fortune cookie stuff. But, how do you choose which college will be graced by your presence?
High school seniors headed off to earn their Bachelor’s degrees have about a month to make this decision…and it’s a big one. There are many things to take into consideration when choosing a college including, but not limited to: financial aid offers, location, major/program, and personal/lifestyle preferences.
Financial Aid Offers
With a lot of students, the final decision comes down to the money. And with student loan debt rising each year, this is a very responsible way to choose your college. It’s important to sit down with your family and hash out what they, realistically, can help you with and what you as the student are going to be expected to pay. Remember, college is a four or five year investment, so think long-term financing; not just the first year. This is a tough conversation to have, any conversation about money always is, but it’s an important one.
Location, Location, Location
This can be a BIG factor in where you go to college, and you probably already thought this one over when you were applying to schools. How far away is too far? Or on the flip side, how close is too close? Some students like the idea of being able to go home every other weekend, while others are okay with going home just for breaks. Don’t try to be tough about it, if you like to be around your family then stay near home (and maybe even live at home)! But, if you like your space and you’re okay with having your family 1,000 miles away then go and be free! We homebodies envy you.
It’s really important that the college you attend has a program you’re actually interested in pursuing. While it may tempting to apply to that college because your BFF is going there or they have really awesome-looking housing or you may run into a celebrity there, the real reason you’re going to college is to learn and get your degree. If you’ve already made sure that all of your top picks have your major/program, then be sure to research and compare them. Look into their rankings, job placement percentages, faculty, and classes offered. And if you’re interested in a specific concentration, make sure they have that too. Purdue’s Computer Science program, for example, has a variety of “tracks” for students to choose from when pursuing their degree allowing students to focus in more narrowly on what they’re interested in, a good option for students who have a specific interest.
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before… But there is a big difference between a big school and a small school, a rural school and an urban school, a liberal arts school and a STEM school. If you like access to museums and art and culture, then a rural school may not be your best choice but if you want access to the outdoors and hiking trails, then a rural school may be perfect. Most schools, like Purdue, don’t necessarily fit perfectly into these few categories (besides, BIG!) but they can have a bit of everything. Look into what each school has that matters to you: How many people go to this school? What are the average class sizes? How big are sports? Do you have access to the local community or is campus off by itself?
You know what you like better than anybody, and you’re going to be at your college of choice for four years, you need to make sure you’re making a reasonable choice and that you’re comfortable there.