How to choose the right college in the US

How to choose the right college: Consider priorities, focus on goals, and enjoy the journey.

Find the right college.

One of the vital decisions that a student makes is the choice of college. Other than the need for a big name on your academic papers, there are essential considerations that also need to be put in place. This is because a college has a significant impact on a student’s social life, as well. If you have been accepted to more than one of your first-choice colleges, these ten tips will help you make an informed decision.

Develop your shortlist

Brennan Barnard and Rick Clark, in their book “The Truth About College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting in and Staying Together,” advise students on what to consider when shortlisting potential colleges to go to. Location of the institution, the size of enrolment, campus culture, non-academic opportunities, programs offered, and majors available, cost, and selectivity are some of the most critical elements worth consideration.

Rank your priorities

Every student has different preferences, which is why Barnard and Clark recommend that you make a list entailing your needs and wants, in order of priority. Once you do this, weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each college, with your preferences in mind.

Don’t procrastinate

Don’t wait to make last-minute applications and start panicking when the pressure gets too much. Enquire on the application deadlines for the colleges of your choice, so that you don’t get left out. Most colleges close their applications by January, for those who want to be part of the regular fall admission. If possible, start working on your application by the time you start your senior year in High School. Some of the things you should do before the deadline include personally visiting the college, taking mandatory tests, requesting for recommendation letters and reference as well as writing the necessary essays.

Go back to schools

The initial college tour is not always enough to help you make an informed decision. If you can afford, consider going back to the institutions once you’ve made the applications. Your objective should be to get a real picture of how things are on the ground and to have all your nagging questions satisfactorily answered. Bob Roth, who is an established author of books on college success, recommends that you need to be equipped with at least ten to fifteen questions whenever you visit any of the schools. One mistake you must not make is to tour a college and leave with unclear answers. If you can’t physically attend the school, then you can still opt for a virtual tour. In this case, contact college officials with any questions that you have, and any clarification that you need.

Focus on your endgame

Have a mental map of how your life would be after four years or more of college. No one would want to have a financial crisis from having to bear heavy loan burdens. Tuition fees are different depending on the college, and so you should not bite more than you can chew. If going to one school would mean a lesser loan burden while still achieving your academic objectives, then that is the best option. According to the US News data for the academic year 2019-2020, high-ranking in-state public colleges have a lower sticker price of $10,116, in comparison to the private schools’ $36,801. Though you may spend quite a lot in private schools, there are higher chances of enjoying institutional aid.

Delve into departments

As much as you should be interested in the overall college ranking, there are smaller gems that you should not overlook as you make your choice. Consider a college that does best in your field of specialization. It may not be ranking for other courses, but what you want to study matters most. Find out if there are any active engagements of the faculty, both in the field and at school. Check out the school website to familiarize yourself with the faculty. If you want to take a business or engineering course, you can check the rankings on US News.

Investigate job connections

There are several reasons why people attend college, but the most obvious one is to be able to secure a job after college. According to Roth, some of the questions that you should as should be about the ratio of counsellors to students, job fairs, and interview opportunities available on-campus. The institution should have a career centre that offers a wide range of services. Some of the services you should pay attention to include an explanation of the hiring process, mock interviews, provision of information on salaries, internship, and work placements.

Compare financial aid awards

College debt is a major stressor to many college graduates, so you should look at the financial aid awards for each college. Compare and contrast the financial support that you would get upon attending one college, against another. Don’t go to a school with tuition fees that will force you to take a huge loan, leaving you to struggle with debts.


According to Barnard and Clark, the pressures that come with college admissions can make parents go wacky. It is therefore advisable to only concentrate on matters within your control, and ignore things that you can’t change. You should not focus on whatever happens in admission offices behind the scenes. Live the moment, and offer psychological support to your family, if the pressure is taking a toll on them.

Move on from rejection

If you fail to secure a chance at your first-choice college, don’t fall into depression and lose your focus. Rejection is part of life, and it does not mean that you are a poor student. It only means that the selection process was too tight and that you should not stop trying. Wallowing in self-pity can only close your eyes to the opportunities that are before you.

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