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How to Decide on a College?

March and April usher in an exciting time of the year for high school seniors. With many years of hard work culminating in college acceptances, deciding on the next step of where to attend college can be stressful. This is the time to continue performing in-depth research into the colleges on your list and identify what will matter most to you about your time in college.

As you make a decision, consider the following : financial fit, social fit, academic fit, the overall experience that you are looking to gain in college.

Financial fit

The bottom line price tag for your college tuition is critical here, taking into account scholarships, need-based aid, loans, and work-study that you have received as part of your financial aid package. As a student, it is important to have an honest discussion with your parents about what your family can realistically afford and what you, as a student, should expect to contribute when paying for your education. In addition to tuition, you may also wish to consider the cost of room & board in the town/city surrounding the college. Some students decide to move off campus during their studies and if so, housing becomes a significant expense. Therefore, it is important to think about the overall affordability of the place where you will be living.

Finally, the cost and ease of travel between your college and your family is another consideration. Aside from winter break and summer break, there are likely to be other family occasions during the year that will require travel and depending on the options available to you, these are costs that can add up.

Social fit

The social life on a college campus can have a significant impact on your overall college experience. While some people simplify this and consider if a school is a party school or not, your social experience will be more nuanced. Greek life tends to be a significant driver of a party culture on campus. Looking beyond it, you can also consider if attending athletic events is a major part of the culture of a school and if doing so is appeal to you. Other things that drive social life on campus are if a college has any traditions or yearly events that students regularly take part in. Strong traditions on campus can be very memorable and positively mark your time as a student.

Also the beliefs and politics of your fellow students can impact how well you fit in socially. Taking the time to speak to current students before making a decision can help you to understand what life would look like on campus.

Academic fit

When considering academic fit, you might start with understanding a college’s core curriculum and the classes that you would be need to take, if a core curriculum is required by a college. How much flexibility the core curriculum would provide to take a range of classes that you are most interested in is a question worth asking.

You can also research the criteria for choosing a major and the process that goes into it, such as who would be your advisor when you enter the college and how would the advising change once you have declared a major. Access to advisors can be incredibly beneficial as you navigate your college academic life. Therefore, it is a good idea to understand the advising system before entering college.

Finally, the size of classes, teaching style of the classes that you are likely to take (lecture-based, small discussion classes, professor-taught versus TA-taught classes), research opportunities, and the accessibility of professors are all worth considering.

Overall experience

Dining options on campus and in the surrounding area tend to be an afterthought in the selection process. While it certainly is not as important as your academic experience and what you will learn when attending college, you will be living in the same place for approximately 4 years and you should feel comfortable with the food offerings. Similarly, the condition of residential dorms is another consideration. As an extension, it can be helpful to check how many students choose to live on campus versus move off campus as this impacts the sense of community at a college.

Finally, one tip for gaining an understanding of the culture of a school is to do an online search for the college's student-run newspaper and read through a few different articles. This is a great way to learn what events are going on around campus and what is important to students.

Oriel Admissions is an admissions consulting company providing college counseling to high school students at all grade levels as well as assistance in the preparation of college applications. Contact Rona at or (732) 887-5893 to schedule a free consultation.

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