Congratulations! If you’re reading this blog, you’ve most likely been admitted to a few colleges, which is a huge accomplishment! For some of you, this is a long-anticipated next step and for others this may represent a powerful new endeavor for you and your family. Either way, you have a lot for which you can feel proud and a big decision ahead of you.
The choice might seem obvious for a few of you, but it is understandable that a majority of students are weighing lots of different factors. This is a really big decision for you and your family! Besides the assortment of practical concerns around things like housing options and financial aid, as well as more personal ones like the vibe you got from the student body and campus location. Making this decision might be tough, but it also means you’re in the fortunate position to have options and that is a really wonderful place to be. So, with a little help from everyone’s favorite coach Ted Lasso, here’s how I would make the choice:
Carefully considering the hardcore realities of the colleges to which you’ve been admitted is the best place to start narrowing down your options. These likely include:
· Location, including proximity to home, access to transportation to get home, climate, and geographic setting
· Programs, such as majors and minors available, study abroad offerings, pre-professional programs, support for career development, and specific student organizations of interest, career center resources and access to internships or experiential learning
· Affordability, which is huge. What, if any, financial aid was offered to you and by which institutions, how many years are you offered that award, how likely is the award (or that college’s tuition) going to change while you are there, and how will you cover anything that is leftover
You likely considered some of these factors when you formed your college list, but now that your choice has been narrowed to the schools that offered you admission, it’s time to research these options further. How you do this is up to you. For some, it will mean visiting (or returning to) campuses and asking questions in person, but most colleges will make plenty of helpful information available online. If you want to connect with a current student in a particular major, just ask! If you want to dive deep into the specific courses required for a certain major, check out the departmental websites. If you’re curious about research opportunities, that might mean checking out individual faculty profiles and seeing whose work appeals to your intellectual interests. If you are curious about pre-matriculation credit awarded for advanced courses you took, Google it and you’re likely to find the equivalencies explained on their websites. (You can call to ask these questions too, but honestly we’re probably just going to read straight off the website…) Admissions officers are here to help with your research AND we encourage you to utilize the many resources we make available online for our admitted students.
There is so much more to college life than just the numbers. Just as our admissions decisions are made by considering both the data and voice in an application, you should also consider the features of a college that are more distinctive. After all, you’re most likely going to be spending the next four years here so you’ll want to know it’s the kind of place that you can feel comfortable, safe, and connected. You should consider how you feel about:
· The people: Are the current students, staff, and faculty you encounter kind and welcoming? What is the vibe of the student body? Are students intellectually and civically engaged? Can you envision the current students as your future friends and roommates? Can you imagine the professors being your mentors? The personalities and attitudes found in the community you join will shape your experience significantly and inform the person you grow into between matriculation and graduation.
· The place: Aesthetics aren’t everything, but you are going to be looking around this place for the next four years. How do you feel about the architecture? The campus layout, density of buildings, and amount of open space? The volume outside? Are there physical spaces where you can see yourself studying and socializing? Will this environment inspire you to learn and grow?
· Your identities: Are there spaces on campus to practice your faith or spiritual beliefs? Are there spaces and communities that reflect and affirm your racial or ethnic identity? Will university staff and faculty respect your gender identity? Will your background and perspectives be appreciated and valued? Seeking answers to questions like these can help you feel more confident in the sense of community you’ll discover once you matriculate.
· Your interests: What clubs or sports are there for you to join in? Are there spaces where you can express yourself and find people with similar interests? Is the school in or near a city with lots of opportunities to get to know other people? Or are you looking for something small and niche in a more local setting? Finding community can help make you feel fulfilled and driven to keep learning and growing.
This is just a primer to give you some ideas of what to consider when making your decision. Start with the practical concerns, then narrow things down further by considering what is personally important to you. It’s okay to feel anxious or like there is a lot of pressure on this final decision. It might even feel like the choice of where to enroll will define the rest of your life. Honestly, and I think most people would agree with me, but that is not the case. What matters is what you do with your time wherever you end up. You have the strength, intellect, and passion to pursue and achieve whatever goals you develop. Making the choice that is right for you, about the community that will make you feel the most empowered and provide you with the best resources so that you have the strongest possible foundation while moving forward into your adult life. Remember that 1) there are smart, interesting, kind people at each of the colleges you’re considering, and 2) so much of the value you find in your time in college will come from what YOU make of the experience, regardless of the institution you attend.
Congratulations again, and don’t hesitate to reach out to as many people as you need while making this decision. You have a lot to be proud of, and so much potential for your future. Make the most of it! By Sam Nicol