By Brooke Robbins
College decisions are stressful—there are so many things to consider! What do your parents want? What do your friends want? But most of all, what do you want? With a whirlwind of opinions coming from every which way, it can be hard to keep your eye on what really matters in choosing the right school for you. Admissions counselors and college advisers from around the nation have given us a list that may surprise you of things that shouldn’t affect your college decision.
1. It costs a fortune.
Although it may seem ridiculous not to consider tuition prices when applying to schools, in truth, the school with the highest “sticker price” may not actually turn out to be the most expensive school for you. As Judi Robinovitz, a certified educational planner and the founder of Score At The Top, explains, between financial aid grants and potential scholarship opportunities, you really can’t tell what the actual price will be for any given school until your financial aid packages come in.
So don’t rule out applying to a school simply because you don’t think it’s financially feasible. Rather, as Robinovitz encourages her clients, talk to your parents about how much financial aid you would need in order to accept an offer from your dream school. Then, make your decision once you know how much each school is offering.
2. It isn’t an Ivy.
We all know all about the “big-name” schools—the Ivies and the impressive-sounding universities that are steady forerunners on Forbes’s Top Colleges lists. Honestly, who wouldn’t be thrilled to tell their friends and family that they got into Harvard, or that they’ll be studying biological engineering at MIT? But while it can be tempting to choose a school because of its prestige, doing so puts you at risk of missing the perfect fit for you.
“Fit should include academics and probably location (for many people) and looking at all the factors that will make the college the right place for each particular student,” says Michelle Podbelsek, a senior counselor at College Counseling Associates. “That relates to the student going through a process of self-discovery to understand and identify their own personal priorities.”
College should be some of the four best years of your life, but if you are in a place that doesn’t feel right to you, it will be hard for you to find lasting friendships, academic success or, most importantly, happiness when you’re there.
3. You’ve never heard of it before.
When you’ve never even heard of a school and your adviser insists upon adding it to your college list, it can be hard to imagine yourself actually going there or even considering it. But until you’ve given a school an open-minded evaluation, it would be unfair -- to the university and to yourself -- to rule it out. After all, you didn’t know about your favorite band until you gave their music a listen, or that you’d love your favorite food until you dared to try it.
Robinovitz says that in order to really get a sense of what a school’s like, you have to come as close as you can to walking in a student’s shoes. So, what’s the closest thing? Campus visits! Robinovitz recommends that students visit as many campuses as possible, taking a close look at the student body and asking themselves if they can see themselves as students there.
“Being socially comfortable is as important as the academics,” she says. And the “right school” is unique to every student. So visit as many campuses as possible -- no matter how unlikely you think it is that you’d go there. And most importantly, make an active effort to keep an open mind.