How to Make the Right College Decision
Congratulations! The agonizing wait is over, most admissions decisions are in and you've been accepted to multiple colleges. I guarantee you that the next few years will bring some of the most amazing, ridiculously fun and transformative experiences of your life. For those of you that got into your dream school and know exactly where you'll be headed next fall, kudos to you! However, for many of you who may be stuck deciding between multiple options like I was when applying to college, here are some tips and factors to consider that may make the decision a bit easier: Money matters. If money is a key issue, make sure to carefully evaluate the different merit or financial aid packages granted to you by different schools. Involve your parents in the decision, and weigh the pros and cons of each school. If anything is unclear, don't hesitate to reach out to the respective financial aid office for help. Also, keep in mind that you can apply for more merit-based scholarships later on based on your academic performance in college, which I've done to help further ease my financial burden.
Revisit campuses and meet with students. Even if you've already visited, revisiting helps you fully put your finger on the pulse of campus life. Contact the admissions office to get in touch with student ambassadors, or participate in an overnight program. Speak to students in your specific major or planned area of study, and ask them what they honestly like/don't like about their program to better gauge if it's the right fit for you. Before making my final decision, it was helpful for me to speak to alumni from my high school who happened to attend all three schools I was considering.
Location, location. Envision living in the cities of your potential colleges. Do you love the changing seasons, or does cold weather give you serious blues? Do you adore the city, or prefer a more laid-back atmosphere? Southern California was an easy choice for me as a lover of sunny weather and wanting to be one plane flight away from my family in Hawaii. Location can also have a huge impact on your future career in terms of the connections and job opportunities available in the region. For example, NYC is a fantastic place to study if you're into finance or fashion, while Northern California (Silicon Valley) is the place to be if you're into computer science or technology. Research what kinds of companies and industries thrive near your college cities.
Reputation and rankings will often first pop into your head, but they shouldn't be the sole factors influencing your decision. The choice you make should ultimately boil down to what really makes you happy and best encompasses what you're looking to get out of college – socially, intellectually, professionally and environmentally. I know I'm happy where I ended up, and I wouldn't trade my college experience for one anywhere else.