picturesque college archway
picturesque college archway

How To Pick The Right College For You

Trying to decide where to spend the next four years of school?

Deciding where to go to college can feel like one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make. And while you might be feeling the pressure to decide right away, you need to take the time to explore all your options. If you’re at a loss on how to choose which school is right for you, this guide is here and ready to help.

Keep all these things in mind as you start narrowing down your list of potential schools to attend. Are you ready to start touring schools? Then let’s get going!

What to Look For in a College

Deciding on your college is equal parts logic and a gut feeling. A school might make sense on paper, but you really have to set foot on campus to see if it’s the right place for you. And the reverse is true, too—you might not think a school would be a good fit but fall in love as soon as you get there for a tour. Make sure to keep on open mind as you tour schools. You never know what might surprise you!

It can feel like the paradox of choice when it comes to picking a school—with hundreds of options, how can you narrow it down? Make a short list of schools you know you want to look at and can get into, but be sure to include a few dream schools, too. Then you can find some commonalities between the schools you like and dislike.

On the subject of school, we’ve listed the biggest differences between high school and college that you need to know.

How to Choose a College

1. What majors are available?

If you know what you plan to major in, that certainly helps to narrow down your list of potential schools. It’s easy to find out what the most popular majors at a college are, how competitive the field of study is, and how successful their students are after graduation. But remember that a majority of students change their major at least once during school, so don’t have your major be the only reason you’re attending a school.

2. How much does it cost?

Obviously price is a huge deciding factor when it comes to picking out your college. Affordability usually determines if you can or can’t attend a school or not, so be sure to look at places that are within your budget unless you want to get your heart broken. It’s fine to have a few long shot schools that you might be able to attend with aid or a scholarship, but you have to be realistic. What’s the point of finding your dream school if you’ll never be able to afford it?

Do you want to be close to home for school, or do you want to travel to the other end of the country? Be honest with yourself. You might be feeling antsy to get out, but remember that homesickness is a very real part of college. If you think you can go far away and make it four years, then go for it! Otherwise, find a safe distance that you’re still far enough away from home to feel like you’re on your own, but close enough to get home when you need to (about four hours is a good range).

4. What kind of stuff is there to do on campus?

While you’re definitely at school to study and further your education, you’re also there to have fun! Make sure to do some digging on what the student life is like. Are there sports to follow, clubs to join, or a Greek life to participate in? You don’t want to be bored during your downtime, so having options available to you is important. Even if there isn’t much going on around campus, if you’re situated in or near a major city, that can be a big bonus, too.

5. How does it make you feel?

Remember that gut feeling I was talking about? Listen to it. While your brain is good for some things, you should trust your heart on this. If it feels like a good fit, there’s probably a reason, and the opposite is true, too. Don’t try and convince yourself a college is the right place if your heart isn’t in it. You’re going to be spending a lot of time there, so make sure you can picture yourself spending time there and enjoying it.

How to Pick Between Two Colleges

If you can’t possibly decide between two colleges and got into both of them, use this quick and handy guide to help you compare them.

  • Compare your financial aid options. Which school is giving you more money?
  • Visit campus, or take a second trip to visit it again. Try and plan your trip around a weekend specifically designed for accepted students.
  • Reach out to your prospective department for your field of study. Who has the better facilities or resources?
  • Weigh the location of each school. Look at the big picture of living in each place.
  • Which school is going to give you better professional opportunities?
  • Trust your gut!

Now that you’re feeling better about picking your college, you can go on all those campus tours with confidence. Remember to give yourself plenty of time to make a decision, and weigh all your options before you choose. We know you’ll end up picking the perfect place for you!

Thinking about graduating from college early? Check out how you can do it and what the benefits are. And find out how you can change your major and still graduation on time.

Need more expert advice on starting college? Check out our ultimate guide to college life.