May 1st is National College Decision Day, which is the deadline for seniors to select the college they will be attending in the fall. Now that the initial excitement of college acceptances has settled, it is time for seniors to analyze their options and make the best decision for their higher education, personal, and professional goals. With so many factors to consider, this task may seem daunting. After all, it is a big decision. However, by using a few simple steps, one can eliminate the stress that comes along with making a final decision.
Step One: Create your Short List.
Now that you have two, three, or twenty college acceptance letters, the first thing to do is shorten your list. This may entail eliminating your ‘safe schools’ from consideration after being selected into your dream schools. Or, you may have had a change of heart and want to exclude colleges that no longer excite you. Either way, this first step will focus your attention on the true contenders for the more laborious Step #2.
Step Two: Rank your Priorities
Once your short list is ready, put on your thinking cap and rank your priorities by answering the following question: What is important to me and my family when making this decision? Let’s look at some common priorities for students transitioning to college:
The rising cost of higher education is constantly making headlines. As of 2021, student loan borrowers in the United States owed a collective $1.6 trillion in federal and private student loan debt. It is no wonder that the financial burden of a college education is a huge factor in many students’ college decision. Here are some questions to ask yourself about this priority:
- How much financial aid is each college offering?
- What type of financial aid is each college offering (scholarships, loans, etc.)?
- What is the cost of tuition, room and board, and other necessities at this college?
- Will this college accept transfer credits earned in high school to lower costs?
Location is another important factor when making a college decision. While some students stay in state for college, others prefer to travel out of state or abroad. However, traveling for college is more than a vacation. Students must consider if the town or city the college is in would make a suitable home for them for several years. If the college is in a new destination, try to arrange a trip before making a decision. Here are some questions to ask yourself about this priority:
- What is the travel time to go home and/or visit family?
- Will transportation require airfare for holiday breaks?
- Will I need a car in this town/city? Do they have reliable public transportation?
- What are the cultural practices and celebrations in this town/city?
- Is the location diverse (racially, economically, religiously, etc.)?
- What is the weather like in this town/city?
- Is this a rural, suburban, or urban area? How will I adjust to this?
- Is it possible to visit this college before making a decision?
The purpose of higher education is to become educated, experienced, and well-connected in a desired field, building a foundation for one’s future career. Although many high school students have not decided on their college major just yet, knowing one’s interests and aligning those interests with the programs of study available at each college is key. One should not only consider the programs available, but also who teaches the courses and what other supports are offered for academic success. Here are some questions to ask yourself about this priority:
- What academic resources and libraries are available for students?
- Are the professors at this college renowned scholars, researchers, and professionals?
- Does this college have several programs of study of interest?
- What are the academic specialties of this college?
- What does the course catalog look like?
- What core curriculum or prerequisites are required?
- What honors and scholar’s programs and distinctions are available at this college?
- What are class sizes like at this college?
Campus life is an important consideration when making a college decision. The campus life at a college will have a major impact on a student’s experiences outside of the classroom, especially if he or she decides to live on campus. Here are some questions to ask yourself about this priority:
- What extracurriculars are available at this college (clubs, sports, Greek life)?
- What division level are the athletics?
- Is the student body diverse (racially, economically, religiously, etc.)?
- What percentage of students live on campus? What are the dorms like?
- Is the college active on social media?
- What are current students and alumni saying about their experience at this college?
- What hallmark events is this college known for?
- How do students get involved and give back to the community?
Return of Investment
Last but not least, we will touch on return of investment as a priority. The key to this priority is answering the question, ‘Is it worth it?’ When selecting a college, students should consider the long-term benefits of attending an institution and the overall quality of the education and experience they will receive in return for their time and money. Here are some questions to ask yourself about this priority:
- What internships and job opportunities are partnered with this college?
- Are the alumni organizations for this college active and well-connected?
- Will a degree from this college stand out on graduate school or job applications?
- What is the average income of graduates from this college?
After making your priority list, assign each item weight depending on importance (with a total of 100%). For example, if cost is your top priority, it may have a weight of 50%. If athletics are also very important to you, you may select a 25% weight. Perhaps, as a science major, having access to a high-quality lab would make all the difference. Let’s give the lab 10%. Location may not be a huge factor if all the schools on your short list are in the same state. That could have a 5% weight. And so on. Adding a weight for each priority will help you compare schools in Step #3.
Step Three: See Where Colleges Measure Up
Take your short list, do your research, and give each school a score from 1 to 10 for each priority you’ve identified. One college may be far more expensive than the rest but also have the highest quality professors and courses. Another college may be offering twice as much financially aid, but not have the program of study you’re looking for…How do you choose?!
In these types of predicaments, ranking each school and multiplying the scores by the weight you’ve identified will result in a final score for each college. You can use these final scores to help make an informed college decision.
|Campus Life (10%)
|Nursing Program (25%)
College Decisions at Nevada State High School
College research is built into Nevada State High School’s curriculum and proven process. In Study Skills, students identify the institutions that are the best fit for them given their interests and career goals. Students also complete bachelor’s degree plans and college debt analyses so they are well informed on their academic and financial needs when transitioning from high school to college.
Interested in learning more about Nevada State High School? Read about our courses here.
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