7 Things to Consider When Choosing a College

7 Things to Consider When Choosing a College | Millennials with Meaning

Picking a college can be hard. It’s an important decision that has the potential to steer the course of your life in major ways. I often work with teenagers and I’ve heard many of them agonizing over their college decisions lately, afraid of making the wrong choices.

I don’t blame them! Although my dad’s requirement was that I had to attend two years of community college first before going anywhere else, I still struggled when it came to deciding where I should go next. I didn’t want to go far away, I didn’t want to spend any more money than necessary, and I didn’t want to go anyplace where I didn’t have at least one friend already. Those were my nonnegotiables.

I got one of them. 😂

I chose a college that was 2,000 miles away where I didn’t know a soul. I was able to get a few scholarships and discovered that my private school tuition in Florida was actually cheaper than staying anywhere in my home state, but I still never dreamed I would veer so far off from my original plan.

Why did I?

It felt right. And no other college did.

For months, I’d been pretty set on a particular school a few hours from home where several of my friends went. I figured I’d get an apartment with some of them, spend a good chunk of weekends back home, and put in my two years so I could just get the whole thing over with.

So optimistic, I know.

That should have told me something right there. I didn’t love the school and I wasn’t a bit excited about it. I just thought it was a practical choice, as good as any other place. And I wanted to go where my friends were.

Ultimately, though, I listened to my instincts and I’m glad I did. Southeastern University couldn’t have been more perfect for me, and attending there remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was a hard one, but it was worth it. And it flew by in the blink of an eye.

There are seven things I think are important to consider in a college or university. Some of them I consciously factored into my decision; others I didn’t give much thought to but got checked off my list, anyway. Here they are:

  1. Price. This one’s obvious. Will the school you’re looking at put you into deep debt until you’re 65? (And, if so, can you accept that?) Or will you be able to pay off most of your tuition as you go? Look at scholarship options, getting discounted housing or tuition as an RA, and any differences between online and face-to-face classes.
  2. Programs. This may seem pretty basic too, but does this school have an area of study that interests you or that you feel drawn toward? I know many people who have exclusively chosen a school based on where their friends attended, regardless of what they truly wanted to study. Make sure there’s something you actually want to major in at the college you choose.
  3. Preview Days. Does this school have a weekend or all-day option where you can visit the campus and experience a taste of what it’s like to actually live there? My school did this regularly and it gave prospective students more clarity when they could see current students going to classes, eating in the cafeteria, and pulling all-nighters before exams.
  4. Proximity. How often do you want to visit home? And how much will it cost you to travel each time? If you picture yourself spending every weekend attending your old high school’s football games and attending your niece’s dance recitals, you probably don’t want to enroll at a faraway college.
  5. Personal Growth. Is this place going to accelerate you or hold you back? Be honest. Does it inspire you to achieve or leave you feeling suffocated? If you can’t grow there, my friend, it’s not the school for you.
  6. People. Friends may not be the main factor, but they’re still a factor. When you observe the students, professors, and others walking around the campus, are they the kind of people you’d want to hang around? Are they the kind of people who’d be good for you to be around?
  7. Peace. To me, this is the most important factor in ANY decision. Do you feel at peace about it? You can have peace and still feel a little afraid. But, deep down, you should know this is a good decision – or maybe that it isn’t because you feel a lack of peace. Follow your peace.

Choosing a college is a big decision, that’s for sure. But it’s not the end-all. It (generally) only lasts four years, you can always transfer, and hey! Only 27% of college graduates actually use their degrees anyway (I suspect it might be even less at this point), so you don’t have to dedicate too much stress to that decision, either. 😉

Find a school that gets you excited and gives you peace. And then enjoy it! Your college years are like no others, and they might even be some of the best years of your life. Good luck – you’ve got this! 🎓

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