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College criteria

How should you pick a college? Here’s how I ranked the ways.

College criteria

The college you attend will shape you in many ways.  Regardless of the field you study, the specific classes you take, and where you end up afterward, your college choice will influence your opinions, your friends, your thought process and your outlook on life. You might even meet your soul mate at the college you attend!

Make a chart
It is important that we all create our own criteria for evaluating schools. I sat down and came up with the following traits that mattered to me. In the right column, I marked how important the traits were to me in my college search (on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most important).

This is an extensive, but by no means exhaustive, list of criteria that you might use when picking a college for yourself. Your traits and rankings will be different. Use mine as an example, not the only way to do it.

Stuck? Try “try on” days
When I was truly stuck, my college counselor suggested that I “try on” each school for a day. So on Monday, I told everyone that I was going to the University of Chicago and noted how it felt to say that. 

On Tuesday, I took a break and didn’t think about the decision. 

On Wednesday, I repeated the process again, that time with the University of Pennsylvania.
This experiment allowed me to crystallize my thoughts about each school. Did I have any regrets? Was I happy with my decision? Did I see myself as a proud graduate of the school?

This process helped me clarify my feelings. At the end of the day, I realized that both schools had extremely strong programs, each with different foci. On Friday, I made my decision and sent in my form. I would have been happy at both schools, but I realized that I had to trust my instincts. 

Your opinion matters most
The key is understanding what is important to you. This is probably one of the biggest decisions of your life, and though others will have their opinions about where you should attend, your opinion is by far the most important.

Not everyone’s opinion is valuable. You probably should listen to your parents, closest friends, siblings, favorite teachers and counselors, as they know you best. But where do you want to go? Where will you be happy? After all, this is years of your life, and your college experience will truly shape who you are as a person. 

Smile, you’re going to college
Once you have made your decision, don’t look back. You have just made the best possible decision, and you are going to love college. Relax!

Karan Goel is the CEO of the award-winning online test preparation firm PrepMe (, which helps students score as high as possible on the SAT.


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