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The Big Decision: How to Choose the Right College

September 04, 2023 :: admisdev

Choose The Right School

Choosing the right college can feel like a monumental task, but it’s also an exciting adventure! With acceptance letters in hand, it’s time to decide where you’ll spend the next few transformative years of your life. From analyzing academic programs to visiting campuses, there are many factors to consider. This guide will help you navigate the decision-making process with ease and confidence. So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let’s dive into the fun journey of choosing your perfect college match!

Does It Really Matter Where You Go to College?

Many students and parents wonder if the college you attend really makes a difference. Here’s what the research and experts have to say.

An admissions consultant’s life can be a bit hectic, especially around deadline season. We and our clients are all single-mindedly focused on one goal: getting those admits. But from time to time, it’s a good idea to step back and ask: Does it matter where you go to college?

Derek Thompson at the Atlantic reviewed studies that challenge long-held assumptions about the value of high-end colleges. For females, minority, or not-rich applicants, the new data show that an elite education can significantly increase lifetime earnings. An elite education will, on average, bump a woman’s lifetime earnings by 14%, more than making up for the higher costs. For low- to middle-income and minority students, the effects can be even greater.

However, for the most privileged applicants who are likely to pay full price anyway, a high-end education might not significantly change future earnings. But beyond financial considerations, attending an elite college can offer a motivated and ambitious peer group, access to extensive resources, and unique extracurricular opportunities that can enrich your overall experience.

Factors Beyond Financial Returns

College isn’t just about the potential earnings post-graduation. The professors and peers you’ll encounter are crucial. Elite schools often attract motivated, ambitious students, creating a dynamic environment for growth. A study by Raj Chetty showed that lower-income students at elite universities are more likely to secure selective jobs than those at lower-tier schools, thanks to the enriched environment and networking opportunities.

Extracurricular activities at elite universities also offer unique experiences. From study abroad programs to specialized clubs, the opportunities are often more diverse and well-funded. Whether it’s learning to sail or engaging in cutting-edge research, these experiences can be life-changing.

College Decision Dates for 2024-2025

Knowing important dates can help you stay on track during the college decision process. Here are the key dates for the 2024-2025 admissions cycle.

  • Early Decision I: November 1, 2024
  • Early Decision II: January 1, 2025
  • Regular Decision: January 1, 2025 – February 1, 2025
  • National Decision Day: May 1, 2025

Mark these dates on your calendar to ensure you don’t miss any critical deadlines!

5 Things Smart College Applicants Do Before Decision Day

1) First and foremost, congratulate yourself!

By having a decision to make, you already have so much to be proud of. Many people will say that choosing a school is the “hard part.” But if you look back on all of that studying you did during high school and for the SATs, and all the writing and rewriting you did for your college essays, you will realize that you already did all of the hard work. Choosing a school should be the FUN part! So, rather than worrying about choosing the right or wrong school, take a breath, step back, and enjoy the success you’ve had so far. Also, remember that there are plenty of resources out there that offer guidance. Check out some additional articles below that may help you through the final stage of the admissions process.

2) Remember that your choice isn’t written in stone

Choosing a college or university is probably the first BIG decision you will make as you enter adulthood, so it’s only natural to feel some pressure to make the RIGHT choice. However, the reality is that you won’t REALLY know what it’s like to attend a school until you are there, enrolled in classes, and experiencing it for yourself. Of course, this is a decision that should be made thoughtfully, but don’t stress. Trust that you are capable of making the best decision (and trust us when we say that it won’t be the end of the world if you later realize that you didn’t).

3) Pay the contenders a visit

If you are deciding between two schools with comparable academics and resources, the decision might come down to “feel.” If you live close and haven’t been on campus already, try to visit at least your top-choice school. Can you picture yourself on campus? Does just being there excite you? Obviously, visiting isn’t an option for every candidate or every school, so if it’s not an option think about what type of community you would feel most comfortable in. Are you an urbanite? Or do you love the outdoors? Do you want to be in the heart of a fast-paced coastal city, or do you prefer the slower pace of the midwest? Is it important for you to be close to your family? Factor in what you know about the communities that surround the schools you are considering and think about what type of environment you want to be in for the next four years.

4) Put your thoughts on paper and make a pro-con list

Making pro-con lists will give you a chance to organize your thoughts and clarify what it is you are looking for in a school. Chances are the number of entries in one of your pro-lists will far exceed the others!

5) Trust your instincts

I’m sure your parents, teachers, counselors and every other adult in your life has already weighed in. With their insights in mind, it’s time for YOU to decide. Deep down, you’ve probably already made your decision, so trust your gut.

The Admissionado Survival Guide to Other People’s Opinions

Everyone will have an opinion about where you should go to college. Here’s how to handle all that unsolicited advice.

  1. Ignore Individual “Advocates.” None of the advice that any individual will make should count all that much. Even folks who attended a school and are advocating on its behalf. I went to Brown and I happened to have an absolutely AMAZING time. A life-altering time. But guess what, I’m sure there were some who went to Brown and thought it was just fine, and probably some who even HATED it. It’s not a great test. What if you pick the wrong guy or gal to ask?!
  2. Ignore the School’s Advocates. This one’s easy. Of course the school itself will do and say everything they can to sway you to choose THEIR school over their competition. You think they have YOUR best interests in mind right now? Hell no. They have a million and one reasons to convince you to say yes, but benefitting YOU isn’t one of them. Sure you can attend information sessions and all that, the point is, don’t compare notes on what people SAY. (More on this in a sec.)
  3. Don’t “read” stuff (Ha!). There is nothing that exists in written form that should sway you one way or another. The school’s “mightiness” should more or less be equal to ANY other school in your “echelon” (if you’ve defined your echelons correctly, or gotten any input from us). So, each school is gonna catapult you in more or less equal ways.

Conclusion: Trust Yourself

Choosing the right college is a personal journey. Trust your instincts and remember that this decision is just the beginning of an exciting adventure. By focusing on what feels right for you, rather than external pressures, you’ll find the place where you can thrive and grow.

Congratulations on making it this far! Remember, there’s no wrong choice among your top options. Each school has its unique strengths, and you’ll succeed wherever you go. Good luck!