It’s the spring of your senior year and you’re considering which school to attend in the fall. With all the applications under your belt, the decision-making process can be an exciting—but often confusing—time. Here are a handful of factors to consider before accepting an admissions offer.
1. Academic opportunities
College life is made up of many different parts, with academics as the largest. Find out as much as you can about the school’s academic opportunities to help you decide. What would a sample course load look like? What kinds of classes are offered in your intended major? Are you able to pick up a minor or second major, if you’d like? Can you study abroad?
It’s a great idea to visit or contact the department you’d take many of your classes in. Look up professors and books they’ve published, as well as research they’ve conducted. This will give you a sense of what kind of mentorship they’d provide. Lastly, while reputation isn’t the end-all be-all of a institution, consider what academics the school is best known for.
Next to academics, extracurriculars are excellent learning opportunities and a great way to meet new friends and colleagues. If there’s an activity or club you’ve invested in during high school, check out the equivalent at your potential college. If you’re interested in Greek life, consider schools where it has a significant presence—and for those who’d rather avoid fraternities and sororities, there are schools with Harry Potter-like college systems.
Oftentimes, colleges will have a wider range of activities that you’ll be able to participate in, including and beyond sports, the arts, culture, music, and theater. View the school’s website and consider contacting an admissions representative to learn more about these opportunities.
The surrounding town can make a huge difference in your college experience. Consider two things: 1) what kind of town/city the school is located in, and 2) how far away it is from your home. If you’re not already familiar with the surrounding areas, do some research on the town/city. What kind of recreational, cultural, and/or job and internship opportunities does it provide? Would you prefer to be in a large metropolitan area where life may be more fast-paced, or in a smaller college town or rural area where it’s more peaceful? Think about your work/study habits, in addition to your personal interests, and how those might fit in with the school’s surrounding area.
You might also want to consider how far the school is from your hometown. If you’re itching to get away and would enjoy being farther across the country—or even world—look into those options. But if you’d like to be within a two-to-three hour drive of home, you might wish to put a closer school higher up on your list.
4. Financial considerations
Take time to compare how much each school costs and if you’ve been offered financial aid or scholarships. If one school costs more than another but makes up for it in how well it meets your other preferences, it may be worth it to spend more and/or take out loans. If two schools are comparable, then you might want to choose the cheaper school, depending on your financial situation. You might take into account what you’re doing after undergrad—if you’d like to save money for graduate school or are going straight into the workforce—which can help you decide how and when to use your money.
Last but not least, consider what kind of communities are offered by your potential schools. Would you enjoy attending a large state school or a smaller, private college? Would you like to attend a same-sex college? Maybe you’re looking for a campus that puts emphasis on environmental concerns or certain school values (for example, community service). These can play a huge part in the social circles you’ll run into, as well as academic and extracurricular opportunities offered.
While deciding which admissions offer to accept, consider making pro/con lists, as well as contacting professors, students, and alumni associated with the school. You can also talk with trusted friends and family members who know you well and could help you weigh your options. You might want to make an appointment with your school counselor, who could help talk you through your decision also. All in all, ensure you take the appropriate amount of time to make a thoughtful decision for your future.
Lisa Low is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.