The other day I was thinking about how this is my senior year of college and I only have one semester left before I walk across the stage and get my diploma. Then, I started thinking about how four years ago I was in my senior year of high school worrying about when I’d hear back from my dream college so I could put down the deposit and start stocking up on merch for school spirit. I know that some high school seniors will soon be faced with the ultimate decision—which college to attend—and not to sound dramatic or anything, but it’s a pretty big deal.
Everyone has their own set of criteria that’s important to them when deciding on a college, but I’m writing this post to give you a little bit of info on some things I wish I had considered before picking a college. Don’t get me wrong, I love my college and there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful I chose it, but I definitely should have considered a few more factors before signing my name in my blood (I’m kidding, no blood was used in my commitment to my college).
So because I know you’re already super stressed with college apps and I don’t want to stress you out with the suspense of a super drawn out intro, here are some things you should consider when deciding which college to attend.
1. Are you living on campus or at home?
This can also help you determine if you’ll be able to afford the college you’d like to attend, since it’s more expensive to dorm. Some people prefer to be closer to home and will opt to either live with their parents or pick a college that’s just two to three hours away from home. Obviously, you can’t commute everyday to a college that’s three hours from your house (I mean, you could try but you’d probably get tired of that really fast). If your parents are cool with you living on campus, you’ll be able to pick a college that’s a little farther from home.
2. Do you want to be in a city or college town?
I was convinced that I couldn’t live in the city because it was so crowded and super noisy. I do love my college town but I also grew to love the city. Each has their own pros and cons, but if you opt for a college in the city, you’ll be able to commute to internships and jobs much easier during the semester since offices and companies will likely be located in a city.
3. How accessible is the nearest city from the college town?
If you’re convinced that you’d rather attend college in a small town, being able to easily travel to the city will still be important, especially if you’re planning on having internships or jobs in the city while you’re there. My college is out in Long Island, and the Long Island Rail Road has a stop on our campus, so when I need to get to Manhattan I can just purchase a ticket, hop on the train, and be at Penn Station in two hours. Yeah, that’s still a long time, but if the stop were anywhere else, it would be SO much harder for me to use the train.
4. Are you more comfortable with a large college or small one?
Okay, I’ll admit that picking a college that’s a little smaller than my college’s 20,000+ population would’ve made me a little more comfortable, but we live and we learn, right? Picking a large college means that the campus is often larger—which can mean more walking time to get to class! But if you don’t want to see the same people over and over again, you might like being on a large campus. Smaller colleges make it easier for you to feel like you’re really part of a tight-knit community because everyone knows everyone. But, this can also be a bad thing if you aren’t careful…Talk it out with your guidance counselor to figure out what you really prefer.
5. Does the college contain a wide variety of programs if you’re undecided?
People change their majors ALL. THE. TIME. Trust me, I know—I changed my major six times before settling on journalism! And, I always feel so lucky to have picked a college that has a wide array of programs and degrees, even though I was dead set on studying health science to go to med school. If you aren’t sure what you want to study, make sure you’re attending a college that can give you lots of options to try out.
6. Are there opportunities for accelerated degree programs?
A lot more people are seeking accelerated degree programs in college so they could gain another degree in just 5-6 years total or fewer. If this is something you think you might be interested in a few years down the line, ask a campus tour guide or anyone else knowledgeable about the colleges you’re considering what kinds of degree programs they offer.
7. What’s the mood of the campus like?
Do you walk through campus and feel like you’re surrounded by so much energy? Is the atmosphere super happy or is it really gloomy and dull? You’ll know this for sure if you actually visit the campus a few times before making any decisions. And, obviously, for admitted students day, colleges usually try to go all out to make it seem like their campus is the best, so also try to visit for a regular campus tour. Or, if you have a relative or family friend who attends the university, ask them to show you around on a random day to really get a feel for the mood.
8. Do you prefer large class sizes or smaller ones?
My university has a mix of both, and I got a taste of both since, as a health science major, I was always in large, 300+ student lecture halls. And now as a journalism major, my classes don’t exceed 14 students. Some colleges don’t have large lectures at all, so if you think you learn better in a large class, this is something to ask about.
9. Do the dining halls cater to your needs?
I know that making the food options a factor in the college you choose sounds ridiculous, but you’d be surprised by how few colleges actually cater to the needs of students who are vegan, gluten-free, or dairy-free. If you’re commuting to college, this may not be as big a deal to you since you’ll probably have all your meals at home, but if you’re going to be a resident, it’s really important to make sure you’ll actually have food that you can eat since you’re paying for a meal plan.
10. Are there enough organizations on campus to keep you feeling fulfilled?
It can be easy to fall into a slump when you’re feeling stagnant on campus. Make sure the college you choose has programs, organizations and extracurriculars that will keep you feeling challenged, and like you’re learning something you can use. Are you looking for Greek Life? Pre-professional clubs and societies? Organizations for people in your major? These are great organizations to join in college. Also, check out my post on How To Use Extracurriculars To Boost Your Resume for more insider tips.
What’s your dream college like? Did you attend your dream college?