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Narrow Down Your College Choices Using These Tips

Choose the perfect college, with a little help from these tips.

Madison Sheldrake

January 27, 2016

Narrow Down Your College Choices Using These Tips
The worst part is over. You’ve submitted all of those painstaking college applications and the end is in sight, but you’re not quite in the clear yet. As college acceptance letters come flying in, you slowly begin to realize that the entire decision making process is far from over. I know some students who only applied to one school, and when they got in, the decision of where to go was made for them. I know others who applied to dozens, and it seems like they’re still unsure where they actually want to go. It is stressful trying to make a decision of where to go to college, especially if you’re still waiting for an acceptance letter or two. With the rest of your life just around the corner, the overwhelming sensation of responsibility oftentimes feels like your own personal storm cloud.

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Remember that as long as you work hard and try your best to find the best college fit for you, it’ll work out; even if we all get to that point in a different way. Here are some tips that will hopefully help you during your journey of choosing a college:
Weigh all of your options.
This seems like both an obvious and extremely vague tip. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not important. Sometimes it’s the small details that become the final piece in the puzzle of your ideal college.

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I’ve gone out and asked some of my peers what they have been considering as they narrow their own lists of colleges. Some of the common answers I have received are things like cost, distance from home, classes and programs they offer in the student’s intended major, and how it ranks against other schools. I’d like to add a few more things to this list that can radically change your college experience. Factors, such as:

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-Opportunities for hands-on experiences (study abroad, jobs and internships)
-Class size
-Student to teacher ratio
-What the weather is like
-Activities and extracurriculars outside of academics
These are only some of the things that we tend to overlook, but they can make the world of a difference when it comes down to the final few schools to choose from.
Write it down.
Keeping a list of all of the above factors to consider, and everything else you compile about your different colleges can help when making this crucial decision. Writing things down helps to map out your thoughts visually, and gets your mind on track and maintain focus. It’s very hard to keep a mental list of everything you need to consider and evaluate, and writing everything down will help you to feel organized and confident in your decision. It can also simplify the steps to narrow your choices; sometimes all you need is a few pros and cons lists to compare. When you have a list of factors and rankings, keep it handy. You never know where or when you’ll learn something new about one of your schools that will be beneficial to you, and writing it down as soon as possible will help ensure that you remember it.
Do most of your research on your college’s official website.
While it is important to look into various reviews that alumni have written, it is best to get as much as possible from the official college website. Aspects of college life mean and effect different people in different ways, and there is just no way to know if their experiences will be the same as yours. College websites will also have the most accurate statistics and other official schedules, information, and resources like campus maps. It’s the most sure fire way to collect everything you need to make your decision and feel confident that your information is updated and accurate.
If you find yourself overwhelmed, focus on one school at a time.
Sometimes it seems that the sheer enormity of this decision prevents clear thoughts and leads to nothing but stress and frustration. Something that works for me is just focusing on one school at a time, listing what I like about it, and what I don’t. This way, I can be more detail oriented and thorough with my analysis without getting worked up and overwhelmed.
Wait until you have all the facts.
Some colleges take longer than others to send out their acceptance letters. With each acceptance letter I have received, I have found that while I am ecstatic that I got in to a school I have an interest in, there is always the same question floating around the back of my head: “What about the others?” I’m one of those people who loves to plan everything out and imagine what future things will be like if everything works out just so. It has been so hard not to do the same thing with my college choices, but I’m trying not to imagine a life for myself at the colleges I haven’t been accepted to yet. I don’t want to have a plan worked up in my head and then have to try and forget about it if a rejection letter comes in.
If you can, visit the campus.
With exemptions coming up for a lot of seniors, time to travel to top colleges is limited; especially if they’re far away. Even so, visiting college campuses, even if it’s just a small part of it, makes it so much easier to imagine how you like the environment, the types of things you’ll be involved in, and your overall college experience.
Ask for other’s opinions, but remember it is your decision.
For seniors, it seems like each conversation we have, particularly with adults, somehow ends up on the subject of college. Everyone wants to know what you’re doing, where you’re going, and how you feel about it. Usually it’s a general interest, but it’s a stressful question none the less. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and it’s important to remember that, because you’re going to get a lot of people telling you what they think is best. While listening to and considering what those around you say can be extremely helpful in your own analysis, especially if the person you’re talking to is an alumni of or had an interest in your school, don’t forget that this is ultimately your decision.
Remember that an education is an education no matter where you go.
Sometimes we get so caught up in who has the best of everything. The best sports, the best programs, the best facilities, the best location. We forget that the reason we go to college is for the education that will propel us into the career field. No matter where you go, the most important thing is that you are doing everything in your power to get an education. And that is something to be proud of, no matter which school you decide to attend.

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