How do you find the college that will be your perfect home for the next four years? How do you identify the college that will be a perfect fit for you?
One item on your agenda is most likely affordability. You can’t simply look at the sticker price of each of the colleges; this can be deceiving. You need to calculate the cost of attending the college in your specific case. Be sure you've complete your FAFSA so you will have a complete financial aid picture. Will your AP test scores allow you to attend for a shorter time, thereby lessening the cost of your undergraduate education? How much will it cost to attend each school each year? Will the return on a higher price tag result in better prospective job opportunities? These are important questions.
However, money isn’t everything. College quality is ranked by U.S. News and World Report for quality and difficulty getting accepted this can provide some guidance but it isn't a blanket answer for everyone. Hopefully you’ve planned to visit the campus and sit in on a class to see if the school would be a good fit for you socially. Some schools have a heavy religious influence while others may have a social activist bent. Additionally, some schools excel in graduating fabulous social workers while others are notable for graduating future Nobel Prize winners in the sciences. Look at the majors offered by each school and use that plus your campus visit to help determine if the school is right for you. Also, check out College Prowler for a review of the campus by current students.
One cautious student was determined to go to NYU and was excited to be accepted! When she visited the campus she was chagrined to realize the campus was too open and too busy for her tastes. Fortunately, she was also accepted to Vassar. Her visit there revealed a relatively closed campus which felt somehow safer to her. Despite her love for NYU and her desire to live in the city, she chose to attend Vassar. In retrospect she believes this was the best answer for her.
Another factor is distance from home. This factor will determine how often you see your family and friends. It will also speak to whether you need to reserve more money in order to live in dorms or an apartment. Living away from family can be a good thing – living too far away from family may be great or not so great depending on your relationship with your family. Living too close to home may influence you to live at home. This can be a great way to save money but living at home may interfere with your ability have an actual college experience (e.g., join clubs, attend activities outside of class time, hang out in the library, etc.)
No one can really make the right college choice for you but you. It takes careful research, considerable calculation and balancing, and a realistic look at your finances and your relationship with your family. Consider all of these factors and you’ll be sure to choose the college that’s exactly right for you. And as you slip your deposit into the mail, you can be confident that May Day will be a year of celebrating new beginnings.