College Evaluation: Which One is Right for Me?

College Evaluation: Which One is Right for Me?

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It happens so often: a high school student narrows down his or her college choice list to just two schools, but is unable to make a final decision. Time is of the essence, both colleges have accepted you, and you want to make your decision so that your final months while at high school are memorable and enjoyable.

Instead, you are miserable and worried that you’ll make a decision that you will later regret. Read on to learn how to make the best college choice for yourself.

1. Score your college choices. With your list narrowed down to two even choices, begin to score each one based on several factors. Take out a sheet of paper and write each college’s name on separate lines. Set up several columns of criteria and begin to choose which college is better than the other one within that criteria. Mark the superior choice with an “x” and total the number of “x’s” up to determine the winner.

2. Home or away. If there is geographic space between the two colleges, determine what you value the most: being closer to home or away on your own. Give the “X” to the college that best meets your personal criteria.

3. When size matters. You may prefer a large university with a sprawling campus or maybe your prefer the intimacy of a school where everyone knows each other and the faculty. Award an “X” to the college that best meets your preference.

4. Your area of study. If both colleges offer the same type of study program, choosing between the two can be a flip of the coin. There are, however, some differences between schools. One school’s program may be geared toward research, the other toward instruction. Further, one program may provide a better opportunity to enter graduate school if that is your desire. Know what is important to you and then make your choice from there by assigning an “X” to the school that best reflects your values.

5. College costs. For many students, an overarching concern is their college cost. Even “like” schools may offer far different student aid, leaving you to decide if you really want to go into debt or you’d prefer to finish your higher education with the lowest debt burden possible. If debt bothers you, award an “X” to the college with the lowest costs.

6. Consider extracurricular activities. If what you do outside of class is important to you, then weigh your decision based on what extracurricular activities are desirable. Some students prize major college sports and can’t imagine themselves not attending a university without a big-time sports program. Or, you may prefer a college where intramural sports provide an outlet for all students. Base your “X” on the college that delivers what you want.

7. Use a tiebreaker. If after weighing your criteria you still have a draw (due to a tie for one criteria), make your last criteria a tiebreaker. Here, you will visit each campus, talk with students and faculty, and consult alumni. All things considered, whichever visit impresses you the most, the more satisfied you will be at that school.

Looking Ahead

Once you make your decision, follow through by notifying the colleges of your decision. Then don’t look back: you may find yourself questioning your decision at some point, but know that it was the right decision for you and one worth sticking with.

See AlsoMake the Most of Your Campus Visit

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Categories: Personal Advice