To all of you high school seniors out there – hello! Congratulations on your impending graduation; I know you’ve worked super hard to get to where you are, and we are all very proud of you. You’ve submitted all of the applications, received them back with answers (hopefully all yes’s!), and are looking at all of your options now, pondering where you’re going to spend the next four years of your life. Am I right?
May 1st is quickly approaching, and between scholarships, college rankings, campus tours, and accepted students day events, having so many different options thrown at you is enough to keep your head spinning for a long time. I was in your shoes just two years ago, and I promise you that if you’re feeling confused and overwhelmed you’re not alone.
Even though I was incredibly stressed at the prospect of picking a school, now I can truthfully say that choosing my current institution was the best decision I’ve ever made thus far. Choosing your future college is a big deal, but with the right things in mind, you’ll definitely be able to pick a school that’s right for you.
Here are a few things you should consider (in no particular order) when picking a school:
1. Look at the program!
The best thing about college is that you get to choose what you want to study. Other than general undergraduate requirements, all of the classes you will take are working towards something you are passionate about, and you should make that your priority. In my humble opinion, this is by far the most important part of choosing a school, and something that I wish I did when I was weighing my options.
Look at the courses offered at every school, and make sure they align with your goals for your college experience: If you want to manage the New York Giants when you grow up, can you take a concentration in Sports Management within the school’s Business program? If you’re looking into building a start-up after college, are there Entrepreneurship electives that you’d be able to take to supplement your degree?
Even if a school has a great location, or a great sports team, or a beautiful campus, none of that will matter in four years if you have to settle for a degree in Chemical Engineering when you really wanted to study Materials Science & Engineering specifically.
After all, what’s the good in choosing a campus with cute coffee shops if you won’t be able to study what you love in them?
2. Out-of-Classroom Experiences
Although your courses should be your #1, something else to consider is the availability of out-of-classroom experiences. These experiences can range from co-ops & internships to Greek life to clubs to study abroad – most colleges offer a wide variety of activities you can choose from, and participating in these activities is important in both building your resume and in your general enjoyment and happiness at college.
If you’re really interested in having a lot of options to join Greek life, perhaps consider picking a larger school or a school with an active Greek life campus presence.
Did you participate in Robotics when you were in high school? Do some research on each college’s robotics team and evaluate whether or not you would fit in nicely there.
Are you interested in building your resume and doing lots of co-ops & internships? Make sure that the college you choose has a robust career services department, and look at the companies that graduates from the school have gone on to work in.
Are you dying to go to Germany and study international public policy? Look up each school’s study abroad options and see if the program is well developed for undergraduates.
These things, though not necessarily classes, will shape your college experience, help you make new friends, and are likely what you’ll remember most from your time in school. Make the most of these opportunities!
3. Money, money, money.
I hate that this has to be a factor, but girl (or boy) – college is expensive. A school might appear to be absolutely perfect and everything you’ve ever wanted in a college, but if it’s going to leave you swimming in debt after graduation, you might want to reconsider your choice. Look at the employment rates of graduates of your potential universities – do you think you have a good chance at being able to pay off your loans based on these statistics? If you do, then go for it; if not, maybe try looking at colleges that are more affordable.However, you should keep in mind that quality is always > price. Think of it like buying a leather jacket – it’s an investment that will ideally carry you through your life. You shouldn’t buy a poor quality version just because it’s cheaper – buy a cheaper version of a good-quality jacket, and you’re golden!
On the same token, don’t pick a school just because it sounds nice/don’t rule out a school just because of its “reputation”. This is something that was hard for me to grasp when I was picking colleges, but names don’t mean anything! Your ability to get a job after school doesn’t hinge on whether you went to an Ivy League or not. If you take advantages of the opportunities given to you at school (see #2), then you can achieve anything that you want. I promise.
Picking a college can be tough, but know that no matter your decision, everything happens for a reason. You’ll find your place, and I promise that you’ll be able to grow and learn and experience more in college than you ever thought possible in high school. I’m happy with the choice I made, and I hope more than anything that you will be happy with the choice you make, too.
Do you have any advice for picking a college? Or are you in the process of deciding on a school now? Let me know in the comments below!