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What Really Matters When Choosing a College

Here you are. You’ve worked so hard all your life, and high school is finally almost over. That light at the tunnel keeps getting brighter and brighter, and you’re staring at. Wide-eyed full of mixed emotions. Hey, it’s normal. There’s a big decision ahead of you. A big life change. And these things rarely come easily.

It’s time for you to choose your college and move on to the next phase of life. It’s time for you to become an independent adult. Sounds great, right? No more rules. No more curfews. No more parents telling you do “do this, not that.”

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However, that big decisions that’s looming over you—it won’t come easy. Deciding which school to go to is difficult. After all, there’s a lot of pressure, hope, and expectations in regards to those 4 (or 5) years you’ll be in college. Everyone tells you these will be the most fun years of your life. Everyone tells you  that you’re going to have to work your butt off to achieve that degree. Everyone tells you that you’re going to have to get the top GPA from the top school to compete in this ruthless job market.

And everyone is correct, to some degree. So it’s with all that pressure, all that weight on your shoulders, that you have to decide—where are you going to go to school?

How Most Kids Choose Their College

So how do you go about choosing a school? Well, if you listen to the advice of most…if you choose based on the criteria that most kids are choosing by, well, you’re going to choose the top school available. According to an article in LA Times, most kids say you should, “stick to the rankings.” In other words, you apply to a bunch of schools, and then you go with the top ranked school that accepts you.

The same article goes on to explain the second way most kids choose their college: they tour the school and see which one feels best. In other words, which school is going to be the most fun, comfortable, and easiest to make friends?

Both ways sound okay, right? However, the truth is that there is so much more to your big decisions. By making a decisions solely on the criteria lined out above, you’re destined to make a bad choice.

What You Should Really Choose Your School Based On

Truthfully, there are a variety of factors you should consider when choosing your school. And no one factor trumps the others. You’re looking for the best all around fit. So maybe consider creating a survey based on the following (and the two criteria discussed above). Then you can find the school that meets the majority of your needs.

  1. What career are you looking to enter when you graduate? Rankings aren’t everything. Some schools that don’t necessarily rank at the top are still great places to get a career-specific education. So maybe you should be looking for a school that has a good program for what you want to be. For example, you could opt for a psychology degree online, in which case, you’d look for schools that have good psych programs.
  2. What do actual students say? Sure you can tour a campus, but can you truly get a feel for it that way? Without actually being a student there, how can you ever truly know what it’s like? That said, try to talk to other students about their experiences. Not sure how to go about it? Well, you could visit a site like and read up on reviews posted by real students.
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3.What’s your learning style? Are you a hands on kind of person? Do you need small group attention from a teacher? Or are you comfortable fading into the back of the class? Maybe you learn better via computer, so an online program  would make more sense for you? Whatever the case, class size should play a big role in your decision.

4.Money! In general, college is expensive, regardless of route you go. However, you may be more likely to get financial aid from certain schools. So discuss financial aid options and make sure that plays a factor in your decision.

More Things to Remember

Some people are pressured by friends and family to choose certain colleges. Maybe your dad attended a certain school and wants you to follow in his footsteps. Or perhaps your boyfriend chose a certain school and wants you to follow him. Just remember, it’s your college experience. You need to make the best choice for yourself!

Bill Franklin is a college advisor. Every year he helps hundreds of kids choose college programs, careers, and classes that best fit their needs. He’s been there, done that. So follow his advice!

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