Choosing the Right College for YOU

Finding the right college is perhaps the hardest, but also most exciting, part of Getting Into College.

There's a vast array of resources- from , to CollegeBoard's College Matchmaker , to USNews' Best Colleges In America List- but some of the best advice you'll receive is in person from friends and family and visiting the schools yourself.

Prioritize what factors are most important to you
Do some soul-searching to figure out which of your colleges would provide the best "fit" for you. Which one offers the educational and social experiences you are seeking? Here is a list of factors you might want to think about:

  • Location: Urban, suburban, or rural campus? How far from home?
  • Size: How big is the student population? What about class size?
  • Mix of students: Is the college coed? Are there students from all over the country, with different backgrounds and experiences?
  • Academics: Does the college offer programs of study that interest you?
  • Extracurricular: Does the college have the types and ranges of extracurricular activities you are interested in?
  • Facilities: Will you have access to labs, computing centers, and music, theater, or athletic facilities?

Rank these characteristics in order of importance to you and see how well each college matches up.

Get advice from people you trust
It's up to you to choose the college you want to attend. Although this decision is ultimately a personal one, it never hurts to ask for advice from people who know you well and care about your future.

  • Talk to your parents - Find out how each school's costs will impact the family's finances. Be patient with your folks -- picking a college can be an emotional process.
  • Consult your advisers - Ask your teachers, coaches, mentors, and religious leaders about their college experiences. Find out what they liked best and least about their college years -- you might gain a new perspective on what to expect of the next four years.
  • Don't forget your guidance counselor - Visit your guidance counselor. Your counselor knows you well and has years of experience helping students with college decisions.

Talk to current students
Get first-hand knowledge about what it's really like to attend a particular college from current students. Don't be afraid to ask frank questions -- your future college will be home, school, and work to you for the next four years.

  • Your guidance counselor can put you in touch with former high school students who are now attending your colleges.
  • College admission offices can also give you contact information for current students, advisers, and professors.

Visit campuses, for the first time or again
Visiting a college's campus can help you see if you "click" with a school. Ask yourself, "Will I be happy on this campus? Can I really picture myself here?" Get a good feel for the school by talking to students, sitting in on a class, and eating in a dining hall. Don't be afraid to trust your instincts.

Don't rush your decision
Many colleges expect your final decision by May 1st, so you have about one month to make up your mind. It's understandable if you're tempted to make a snap decision, just to end the uncertainty and get the whole process over with. However, try to keep your options open in case circumstances change (e.g. your parents decide to appeal your financial aid package or you decide to change your intended major).

Decide and reply
Once you've made a decision, send in your acceptance letter. Don't forget to inform all of the schools that offered you admission of your final choice. You're holding onto someone else's spot. A simple letter, thanking them for their consideration, but declining their offer, will do.

Remember, there shouldn't be pressure to find the "perfect" college. Any number of schools can be good fits and make you happy.








An Academic Preparation Program of the California Student Aid Commission