Choosing the Best Fit for You
It is true that deciding on a college is no easy feat. In fact, it’s pretty crazy to think about where you want to spend the next four years of your life, let alone how much it’ll cost, what you will major in, and what activities you will join. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to decide the perfect fit, but here are some helpful factors that will (hopefully) make the decision a bit easier.
Cost is one of the most talked about factors in the college decision. How much financial aid did you get? How much is in-state tuition versus out-of-state? All of these questions are valid, and all of them are important. But truth be told, cost is not the most important factor. Why? Because cost is not fixed. While tuition is a big burden on anyone, there are tons of scholarships and financial aid opportunities out there (see my last blog post on scholarship opportunities). Every little bit of financial aid helps, and a few scholarships can go a long way.
Location, location, location. This may make or break your college experience, and the hard part is that you have to be really honest with yourself. Are you someone who can go months at a time without seeing your family, or do you want to be able to come home every few weeks? There is no shame in being a bit homesick. Often, high school seniors find themselves in that “I need to get out of here” mindset, which can get old pretty quick. In fact, homesickness is one of the leading causes of transferring schools. So think long and hard about just how far from home you want to be.
Let’s not forget the whole reason you are coming to college: to get a degree. Finding a school that offers a variety of programs within your interests is key. Odds are, you will change your major a few times, so having the ability to explore your options within your interests is incredibly important. For me, I chose the University of Illinois because the teaching programs are outstanding. I have already switched majors within the college, and have not fallen behind at all—a luxury not all colleges can provide.
Do you want to be a small fish in a big pond, or a big fish in a small pond? Can you learn in a lecture hall of 600, or would you like a more personal feel? It all comes down to size. While size will likely not be the number one factor in your decision, it is often a factor that is overlooked or ignored by most.
The Perfect Fit
Finding the perfect fit is not an easy task. And to some extent, you will only find the perfect fit when you push yourself out of your comfort zone, try new things, and be honest with yourself. If you do choose a college that isn’t fitting with your learning style, do not fear looking for other options, either. Ultimately, it boils down to the value of your education, your goals, and your future.