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From Indecision to Decision: Choosing the Right College for You?

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By Aileen Choi

March is an exciting time for many high school seniors as they begin to receive their college acceptances. However, it also marks the beginning of the difficult decision of choosing the right college to attend. The decision can be overwhelming, but with the right mindset and approach, it can also be a rewarding and insightful experience. 

When I was deciding where to go for graduate school, I was torn. I had narrowed down my options to staying in-state, where I could save money, or moving to New York, where tuition would be more expensive. As time passed, I became more and more confident that I was going to stay in Maryland. However, once Admitted Students Day for the school in New York came around, I decided to go to finalize my decision. Little did I know that Admitted Students Day had other plans for me! I met the professors, learned more about research opportunities, and met like-minded peers. I was particularly excited for the opportunity to join a research lab studying language in Korean-English bilingual individuals, as I am Korean-American. I made a complete 180 after this experience, and I decided to commit to moving to New York for school.

Here are some more tips that I used to make my decision:

  1. Determine your priorities. Before you make any decisions, think about what’s important to you. Are you looking for a specific program or major? Do you prefer a large or small campus? Are you interested in a particular location or climate? By identifying your priorities, you can narrow down your options from your list of accepted schools. 
  1. Do your research. You’ve already completed this step during the application process, but now you get to do it again with fresh eyes! Once you’ve identified your priorities, look at the colleges that best match your criteria. Look at their websites, read student reviews, and explore their social media accounts. This will give you a sense of the school’s culture, programs, and resources.
  1. Visit the campus. If possible, take another trip out to see the colleges that you are considering attending. This will give you a chance to tour the campus again, meet with students and faculty, and get a feel for the overall atmosphere of the school. You’ll want to make sure that it’s a place where you can see yourself being happy. 
  1. Talk to professors. Talking to professors can make a huge impact on your decision. Speaking to professors at Admitted Students Day allowed me to learn more about research opportunities and start building connections. You can ask about faculty mentorship, academic programs, or even what their favorite TV shows are! If you’re going to work with these professors for the next four years, you’ll want to make sure you can bond with these individuals. 
  1. Ask questions to current students. Talking to current students can also provide valuable insights. They can share their experiences about campus life, social activities, and academics. You can ask questions about the professors’ accessibility, how easy it is to form study groups, or what the best dining options are. Often times these candid conversations can reveal information about why students love their school. 
  1. Consider the cost. College is expensive, so it’s important to consider the cost of tuition, room and board, and other expenses. Look into scholarships, financial aid, and work-study programs to help offset the costs. Also, consider the long-term value of your education and the potential return on investment for your chosen field of study.
  1. After learning more about the school and identifying your priorities, you can organize your information through an Excel spreadsheet like the one below:

List the different factors that are important to you, and then use a -2 to 2 rating scale. Then, if you sum them up, you can see which option makes the most sense. As you can see, option 1 was the clear winner (which is the one I went with). You can see, however, that all of them were really great options.

Ultimately, the decision of which college to commit to should feel right for you. Trust your instincts and choose the college that you feel most excited and passionate about. Remember, you will be spending the next few years of your life at this school, so make sure it’s a place where you can see yourself thriving and growing. Good luck!

Erica MechlinskiFrom Indecision to Decision: Choosing the Right College for You?

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