You’ve been waiting to make this decision for a long time. You’ve been thinking about the college or university you would like to attend for years – maybe even since you were a kid. There’s been a ton of hard work to get to this moment. Four years of high school, tons of study sessions, and multiple standardized tests. Hours of research, college visits, essays, and scholarship applications. You’ve thought and reflected, talked with your parents and other advisors, about everything from academic and career programs to housing, the food options, the location of a particular school, the student life options, and of course the financial aid piece. But now, is an exciting time – you’re making your final college decision!

While many people have counseled and walked through, only you can make this decision. Only you can know from a visit if you can really see yourself walking around the campus and enjoying life in a particular college town. You’ve thought through what you may want to do with your life and what you’re passionate about – only you can decide if a school will be able to help you get there.

As you’re thinking through a ton of different factors, we wanted to help you filter through the main ones you should be thinking about as you make this decision. Below is some food for thought, things to chew on and consider.

Campus and Feel

When it comes to the campus and the feel of the school, there are important questions to ask yourself after you have visited like:

How did I feel walking around the campus? Did I enjoy it? How were the dorms? Could I see myself going to class, activities, meals and other things on the campus? Can I safely and comfortably walk to and from class? Is the transit system reliable and student friendly? Do I feel safe? Do I like the location? Is it too close or too far from home?

While you’ve probably already thought through some of these things, now is the time to nail down your answers and decide if any of these things are deal breakers. We added this “food for thought” first because no matter how wonderful a school’s programs or accolades if you don’t feel like it will be a good fit for you, it’s not going to be the place where you’ll find the most success. The level of safety, comfort, convenience, and “feel” has a much bigger influence on your overall success and enjoyment than you even realize. The environment will either empower and propel you towards success or can potentially suck the energy right out of you.

Academic and Career Programs

As you’ve heard us talk about before, college fit is more than just a feeling or liking the campus. It boils down to if the school can help take you to where you want to be. As you’ve been finding who you really are, what you are interested in, passionate about, and what you may want to do, certain program offerings and majors will become more appealing over time. As those things come up, that begins to become a deciding factor in what school you should choose. By your senior year, you’ve got a really good idea of these things, so what a school offers becomes one of the main factors you need to think through as you decide.

Make sure to not only understand the majors and program offerings but talk with faculty and staff in the department you’re interested in. Talk with alumni and current students about their classes or jobs post-grad to get an idea if this could be a place where you could find success as well.

Financial Aid

This one seems the most simple and straightforward yet it is the area most often discounted or overlooked. There are a few factors that play into this:

The type of school – private or public.

The amount of financial aid you have been quoted to receive – through scholarships, merit or need-based.

If it’s in-state or out-of-state for you.

Your personal and family financial situation.

A family’s financial situation is one of the biggest factors here. It’s very common to find families who have overlooked or never even been aware of strategies or avenues for getting “in-state” tuition which has the potential to save you $17,000/year or more of the cost. That’s $68,000 over 4 years that you wouldn’t have to pay back, plus interest! Being aware of these factors when making your decision is very important.

As you consider schools, all factors matter, but paying for it can become a worry point. This is a factor that may tip the scales. If you have two great options that you felt at home at and both offer what you’re looking for from education and post-grad job standpoint, but one is less expensive…that could be a deciding factor for you. While cost certainly shouldn’t be the only factor as is sometimes pushed for, it should be thought about at length.

This decision may or may not be an easy one. For some, it’s simple. These main factors line up well for one school and the decision is made. But, for others, more thought and processing goes into it. Our last tidbit of advice: Don’t choose a school solely based on prestige, name brand, or rankings. Despite what a lot of people think, these factors often are not the deciding factor in landing a job or a place in postgraduate studies either.

As you’re walking this journey, we hope one or some of these points help you in the college decision making process!

No matter what you decide, you’re about to embark on an exciting, challenging, fun road ahead. We’re so excited for you. Let us know if there’s any way at all that we can help!