Students who are lucky enough to have received multiple college acceptances have quite a challenging decision-making process ahead of them. When evaluating their final criteria about which school to attend, they are burdened with multiple factors to consider. Should they select the prestigious institution, the school closest to home, the one in the bustling town, the most affordable choice, or the university their friends have decided to attend?
Here are six elements to consider when attempting to select the perfect college amongst numerous acceptance letters:
1. Compare actual costs, not tuition alone.
You must compare all costs, including room and board, student fees, potential out-of-state fees, scholarships/financial aid, etc. Avoid the ploys some institutions utilize to enhance their perceived value. Certain schools post high tuition fees, but offer generous scholarships - positioning their colleges or universities as $40,000/year educations for only $20,000/year. Circumnavigate these ruses by considering return on investment statistics.
2. Visit for an extended weekend.
To become acquainted with a campus, it is best to attend a three- to five-day summer program where you can sit in on classes and meet professors. If this isn't an option, identify an acquaintance, a friend or a relative and stay with him/her for a weekend to observe and experience campus life.
3. Alumni networks
Where do you hope to reside after college? The majority of schools tend to have dense alumni networks in certain areas and sparse networks in others. Once you begin college, you will quickly learn that being connected to the correct people is one of the easiest ways to access employment opportunities or internships. So, explore alumni networks on Facebook and LinkedIn. Contact your prospective institution, as it will likely have more detailed information to offer about these networks.
4. Department/major prestige
Instead of considering the overall rank of your prospective universities, investigate each school's department/major rank. Attending a school that is particularly well known for the field you wish to study could be a significant step in developing a strong career path. It may seem early to think about that area of your life so seriously, but you'll be thankful come graduation when you're looking for jobs and that school's name on your resume boosts your profile in the industry.
5. Student programs/clubs
Explore the clubs available at your potential schools and pose questions on your tour. Clubs range from Greek life to intramural sports -- even to organizations oriented around each major. They are also great ways to start networking and gaining professional experience before entering the "real world."
6. Pick three to five personal factors that matter most
It may be challenging and a little unrealistic to say that one factor is the most important, but try to create a short list of three to five factors that are especially important to you personally. For example, total price, location, potential return on investment, etc. Then, rank your prospective schools for each factor, awarding three points for first place, two for second and one for third. If you're completely stuck, this systematic approach may give you a little perspective.
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