It’s an exciting time in the lives of many high school seniors across the country. Soon, they will be donning their cap and gown, walking across the stage and receiving their hard-earned diplomas. But before they do that, they have an important decision to make about their future. What college are they going to attend?
It’s decision making time. And while the National Decision Date of May 1st has historically signaled the end of the college recruitment cycle, in recent years many schools have accepted commitments past that date. If you are among those students and families still trying to make this major decision, here are some key things to consider:
1. Talk it Out.
Jeff Mavros, director of admissions at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, suggests making a list of your most important criteria and creating a pros and cons list for each school. Then talk it all out. “The more it gets discussed the better everybody feels that the student made a very informed decision,” he says.
2. Can You Afford It?
You wouldn’t buy a car you couldn’t afford, so why choose a college that’s far out of your budget? “That's becoming a bigger part of the equation,” adds Mavros.
College costs include tuition, room and meals, books and supplies, and a little bit of spending money. He goes on to say, “knowing how much your school will cost, what any financial aid and scholarships will cover and what you have to pay for out of your own pocket can help to make your final decision.”
3. Consider the Quality of Life.
The bottom line is a huge part of the college-making decision, but it’s not the only one. “Students should consider many outcome-type metrics, such as graduation rates and retention rates, placement rates and earning potential,” suggests Mavros. “But maybe even more importantly,” he continues, “they should consider quality of life, campus culture, faculty accessibility, friendliness and happiness of those who attend.”
Simply stated, Mavros wants every student making this decision to understand, “we know that students who are happier are more successful.”
4. Accept That There Is No ‘Best School.’
While many students strive to get into the ‘best school,’ it’s important to remember that someone else’s definition of the best school might not necessarily be the best school for you.
“Make the decision based on your family’s specific priorities,” advises Mavros. “Have a conversation about what’s important to your family and important to your student. You can’t really know you’ve made the right decision until you’re there and living the experience, but hopefully you’ve done enough research to inform a really good decision.”
5. Remember, It’s Your Decision.
It doesn’t matter if Aunt Sally went to a particular university, your dad was in a certain fraternity or your best friend from kindergarten is considering the same schools that you are. Deciding what college you want to go to is your decision and nobody else’s.
“The right fit for another student may not be the right fit for you,” Mavros explains.
6. Listen to Your Gut.
Let’s say you’ve narrowed down your choices to two schools and the race is pretty even. How do you make that final decision? “If you’ve truly done all the research and have two equal options, at a certain point, your final decision just comes down to a gut feeling and what feels right,” describes Mavros. “If you have two choices you love, that’s a great situation to be in.”
Don’t overstress. It’s not an easy decision, but trust in the research you’ve done—you’ve visited the schools, compared them, and then talked out all the factors. Make your decision and look forward to your future!