How to Choose a College, Part 1

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Received your college acceptance letters? Congratulations! But now comes the hard part: Choosing which school to attend. Making such a big decision can be scary, but if you follow these guidelines, your decision should be easier to make!

1. Don't let rejection get you down

With an estimated 20 million students applying to college each year, it's no surprise that many of them don't get into their top school. If this happens to you, don't worry! Your future is not doomed because you didn't get into MIT or Stanford. There are over 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States. You don't have to attend a top-tiered school to succeed. If you work hard and do well, you will succeed at any college you attend!

2. Location, Location, Location

What schools have you been accepted to attend? Are they close to home or on the opposite side of the world? Where your school is located is a very important factor to consider.

Do you prefer the city or is a rural location your dream? If you're looking for easy access to shopping, dining and weekend activities, then a school that's situated in or near a city will be a better choice for you than a school that is more isolated. But on the other hand, if the thought of studying in a city isn't your thing, consider a school farther away from large cities and opt for a school in a small town.If you plan on attending a community college or plan on living at home and commuting to school, you will obviously want to choose a school that isn't too far away.

While the idea of going to school in another state can be exciting, keep in mind that it also comes with the added cost of out-of-state tuition and extra travel costs.

3. Compare Curriculum

Different schools have different programs. Check online for the Bulletin for the program you're enrolling in to see what the required classes are. If you're going to major in computer science and one school has a better developed and more extensive computer science program than another you're considering, you'll probably want to consider the school with the better curriculum.

4. Money, Money, Money

Probably the biggest deciding factor you'll face when deciding which college to attend is money. The price of attending college varies greatly. Some colleges can cost over $50,000 per year while others are less than $20,000.Luckily there are lots of financial aid opportunities for students that can help earning your degree more affordable! First, make sure you've completed the FAFSA. We have a post on why you have to do it here. Without the FAFSA, you can't received federal financial aid. If you've already completed the FAFSA, great job!

Check with your top colleges to see what their financial package is for you. Ask them what scholarships and aid you can receive from them and what you can expect to pay. Many schools have merit-based financial aid for incoming freshman that can help reduce your tuition by $1,000 or more and a few schools even offer 100% tuition coverage!

If you're still looking for more aid, check online to see what scholarships you might be able to apply for. There are tons of scholarships just waiting for you!

Once you've factored in all of your aid, you can see how much you owe and see if you can get loans to cover the rest. Keep in mind that attending a college that's out of state can cost you more in tuition and travel costs.

5. Tour Your Top Schools

Once you've narrowed down your list to your top two or three schools, arrange for a tour of the campus. Most schools offer free private or group tours which you can usually arrange by visiting the college's website or by calling their Admissions office. The tour guide will show you the campus and answer any questions you may have. It's a good way to experience the school and see what it 's like! 

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Still can't decide which school to attend? Check back next Thursday for part two where we answer more questions about how to choose a college!