If you’ve applied to college this year, it should be only a few weeks until acceptance letters start hitting the mail. Most schools send their letters and follow-ups in March or April, so before you know it, you’ll be choosing the school that’s right for you. Here are a few tips to help you with the decision process.
Review the Offer Carefully
When you see that thick envelope with your dream school’s logo in the upper left corner, you may want to pick up the phone, call everyone you know, and send in your acceptance ASAP. Before you do, though, take some time to carefully review the offer and compare it to any other packages you may receive. Specifically, you need to look at the tuition and the amount of financial aid you are offered. Ask yourself: Will the financial aid be enough? Is the length and focus of the program one that will help you further your career? Is the investment worth the return you’ll get when you graduate?
Consider the Program Strength
In addition to the financial component of your decision, you also need to consider each program’s strengths and weaknesses. Let’s say, for example, that you know you want to go to medical school when you graduate. You need to make sure that you undergraduate program will be strong in math and sciences courses, the ones you’ll need the most for medical school applications. You may even want to research the professors at different schools, and see which ones you would be most interested in working with and learning from.
Visit the Campus
A school might sound perfect-until you see it in person. If you’re going to be attending a traditional college (versus an online program), you’ll want to take the time to visit the campus, get a feel for the location and the culture, and see if it’s a good fit for you. Many colleges and universities have open houses designed specifically for this purpose. You should take advantage of any chance to see the school and speak with your future professors, as the campus culture will be an important part of your college experience.
Talk to Other Students
While you’re on your campus visit, take time to talk to the other students. They’ll be the ones who will be able to tell you what the schools really like: how hard the classes are, what the workload is like, which classes you should take, and which you should skip. They’ll also be able to answer questions you may have about the campus culture: how many students are there? What are the dorms like? What does everyone do on an average Friday or Saturday night? What’s the Greek system like? Having their input will be a huge advantage.
Compare Your Offers
If you applied to more than one school, you may have received multiple offers, meaning you have to decide which one is best for you. Once you go through all of the steps listed above for each school, make a list of the pros and cons for each school. Spend some time looking at these items side by side, which should help you decide which one will be the right choice for you.