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How to Select the Best College for You

How to Select the Best College for You

As a high school senior, this is an exceptionally exciting time for you. You’re weeks away from graduating and you’ve got a big, exciting decision to make: Which college or university should you attend?

With so much on the line, we’re here to help you navigate this life-changing decision. Let’s take this step-by-step.

Step 1: Prioritize your ‘must-haves.’

First and foremost, what’s important to you when you consider your future college or university? CampusExplorer.com suggests asking yourself the following questions to determine your must-haves:

  • Are you looking for a specific academic program?
  • Do you want to attend a school with a successful sports program?
  • Do you want a school with an active Greek community?
  • Is distance from home an issue?
  • What are your housing options at each potential college?
  • Do you want small class sizes?1
  • What are you looking for in a college campus?
  • What kind of clubs and organizations would you like to get involved in?

Step 2: Choose an area of study.

What do you want to study in college? While most schools don’t require you to declare a major right away, knowing what you’re passionate about will help steer your college decision. After you choose an area of study, make sure each potential college has a strong showing in that area of expertise.

Step 3: Compare degree programs.

If you’ve already decided on a major, or you know the general field you want to study, comparing degree programs between your top choice schools will help move you closer to a final college decision.

CampusExplorer.com notes that every “major or program of study comes with a unique level of prestige and quality.”1 It’s up to you to decide which program appeals to you the most and which program will help you reach your goals.

Step 4: Tour the campus.

If you’re serious about a school, tour the campus. If possible, take an official and unofficial tour. Adam Weinberg, President of Denison University, wrote about the importance of this in a Huffington Post article. He notes that official tours can offer a lot of great, insightful information about the school, the academics, and the student life.

If you have time during your official visit – or if you live close enough to visit again – “go off the beaten path.” Weinberg suggests wandering around the student union, asking current students about their experience at the school, and – if you run into any faculty and staff – ask them for their opinion about the college.2

Step 5: Consider environment and extracurricular offerings.

How does the college campus make you feel? What clubs, student organizations, intermural sports, and extracurricular activities does the school offer? While your main focus is your studies, the college experience embodies much more than that. It’s important the school you choose makes you feel excited and at home. It’s also important that the college or university offers additional outlets to let you try new things and pursue your hobbies and passions.

Step 6: Take financial aid and scholarships into account.

A college education is expensive, and it’s a big factor in deciding which school to attend. CampusExplorer.com notes that a difference in tuition fees and financial aid packages for each college or university you’re considering is often enough incentive to choose between two similar schools.1

After you’ve thought about what you want to study, considered your ‘must-haves’, and visited your top-choice schools, it’s time to break down how much each school will cost.

Consider the following:

  • Have you received any private scholarships? If so, what schools do they apply at? 
  • Which schools are offering you scholarship money?
  • How much are you willing to take out in federal financial aid money?

Step 7: Discuss your thoughts with family and friends.

Deciding on a college isn’t meant to be done alone. Your family and friends can offer helpful insight and point out factors that you may have overlooked. If it’s helpful, sit down with your family and make a pros and cons list of your top choice schools. Be open to what they have to say; they want what’s best for you.

Step 8: Talk to alumni.

Do you know any alumni from the schools you’re considering? Does your family, friends, teachers, mentors, coaches, or guidance counselors know any alumni? If you’re able to get in touch with alumni from one or all of your top choice schools, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask any burning questions you have. After all, alumni know the school best.

Step 9: Listen to your gut.

Throughout your college decision-making process, you’re undoubtedly going to get bombarded with varying opinions from family and friends, and calls, emails, and advertisements in the mail from school recruiters trying to sell you on their school. Take it all into account. But, at the end of the day, trust your gut. Choose the college or university that feels right.

Step 10: Rest easy. You can always make a transition.

American University student Laura Hartnett stated in a U.S. News and World Report article that “If it turns out you aren’t happy, your decision is not set in stone.” You can always transfer if you decide the school you chose is not the right fit after all.3

College is more than the next step, it’s a launch pad to the future. We’re extremely proud of GRA’s Class of 2016 and the growing list of college acceptances and scholarships they’ve received.

From all of us at Grand River Academy, congratulations on this tremendous accomplishment and next step in your educational and personal journey.

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