After attending campus information sessions at your prospective colleges and universities, you and your family might be feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the decision. If you have yet to attend these, catch up on Part One and Part Two of this series for tips on how to prepare and what questions to ask. Once you have completed those steps, it is time to identify the major takeaways from each session.
Determining the big takeaways from these sessions can help you come to an informed decision about which school you’d ultimately like to attend. Doing this will involve comparing notes from each school’s session to your individual goals, and then carefully assessing the importance of all the factors. How should you start this process? Read on…
Quantify the factors
Putting aside the actual information from the colleges for a few minutes, take a moment to revisit or create a list of what you want from a college in the first place. List or review what’s important to you about the next four years, including things like tuition, quality of education, department offerings, study abroad and internship opportunities, class size, elements of campus life, and location.
Is there anything you’d like to add now that you’ve learned more about a few schools? Rank each factor in order of its importance to you. Then, compare each university to the list you’ve made, and be honest about whether a school measures up and offers everything you truly want. Rank the schools themselves based on how well they meet your needs.
Factor in the unquantifiable
One of the perks of visiting a college is the opportunity to contemplate the “je ne sais quoi” factor — did the place leave you feeling warm and comfortable? Did you like it there, or did it seem weird and strange? Did you make any friends during the session or meet any current students you liked, or did everyone seem stressed out? The vibe you get from a place is important and can help you picture an experience you might have there.
Consider life after college
Usually after matriculating, graduates have most of their connections in two places: their university town, and their hometown. Think about where you might like to live and work after graduation when making this decision — the smaller school in a small town might leave you with fewer options for major company positions or internship opportunities, or the big-city university might keep you in cold weather far away from your family.
Also, think closely about whether or not this university will help you achieve your long-term goals. If you’ve always wanted to be a journalist, the school’s ability to help you do that will be a major component in your long-term satisfaction. If you’re unsure, look at the breadth of course offerings, as well as the school’s ability to support students who switch majors by providing good academic counseling and interesting exploratory opportunities.
While choosing a university or college is a major decision, it’s ultimately a choice driven by a student’s personal goals and tastes. Take time to assess what you truly want from the next step in your education and personal growth and honestly appraise each school through that lens. Facts and figures from the information sessions can help you make the decision, but it’s up to you to determine what matters most in your own journey.
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