6 steps to help you choose a college when you have great choices

Courtney Wallace
April 5, 2019

I bet you didn’t think making your final college choice was going to be as stressful as getting all your applications finished by the deadlines, did you? 


If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with making a final college decision, you’re not alone. This is one of the first big decisions you get to make in your adult life. Where will you call home for the next four years?  


If you’re feeling this way, it must also mean you have at least 2 good choices! Not a bad problem to have, but one you need to work out.


1. Carve out time to make another visit.

 
I get it, senior year is filled with all sorts of fun activities, family commitments, work, etc. and sometimes you just want to take the weekend to relax. But, put in the effort. . . there’s no doubt making another trip to each campus will help. 


Try to make these trips as close together as possible, too! Maybe stay overnight if the college offers overnight visits.  


Pay attention to the distance from home…is it comfortable for you? Talk to current students – what do they love, what would they change?  How do you feel when you’re on campus?  Are the people friendly? Do student, faculty and staff smile and say “hello” and if not, does this matter to you? 


Every college has a distinct personality.  Can you see yourself living there for four years?  


2. Think about academics.

 
Not just, “do they have my major?”  Because, let’s face it…most students change majors.  But, what is your learning style and how does that fit into each of your choices?  


Are you an engaged and active learner?  Enjoy healthy spirited debate with classmates?  Are you more of a passive learner?  Do you like to observe and let information sink in and prefer not to speak up in class? What services or support does the college have for students undecided in major or changing majors? 


You should pick a school where feel both supported and challenged academically.  Just because US NEWS has ranked a college #1 in XYZ program doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for YOU!  All of the other stuff has to make sense, too!


3. Think about continuing your passions.  


College should include all of your favorite things – you really CAN have it all!  Can you continue to pursue your passions at the level you desire?  


Maybe you have the opportunity to compete at the highest level athletically at one of your choices.  Maybe you have the opportunity to perform in the top choir or be a lead in the play/musical (without majoring in those areas).  Don’t leave an opportunity on the table if it’s a true passion for you. 


Love the outdoors?  Make sure you are surrounded by a natural environment during college!  Don’t discount the beauty of campus. It’s amazing how much your environment can impact your mood and satisfaction. Make sure you have balance!


4. Think about what you want to get out of your experience. 


Do you want to study abroad? How will that fit into your 4 year plan? If grad school is your next step, make sure there are supports in place or a mentor on campus to help you reach that goal. 


What support is available for finding internships, study abroad, co-ops, research and full time employment? What type of relationships do you want to build with faculty? 


 Think about WHO you want to be, not just WHAT you want to be. College is so much more than just getting a degree. It’s also about shaping the person you’ll become.


5. Listen to your gut.  


Don’t rule out or choose a school because of something a teacher, friend of the family or peer might say.  You’re the one living out the decision.  
If you feel a connection to a school, trust that feeling. It may sound crazy, but you should pay more attention to the feeling of the right fit than the cost.


6. Consider cost. 


There’s no doubt cost has to be a part of this equation as well.  But, make sure it doesn’t come in more important than any of the items listed above.  


In my 15+ years working in admissions I have seen too many students pick the “cheapest school” just to transfer to their top choice a year later.  There ARE experiences, environments, connections, opportunities and resources worth paying more for.


In the end, this is such an EXCITING time!  You HAVE choices!  And, for the first time YOU get to make the decision of where you will learn, explore, experience and grow.  You get to pick your adventure! 


Pick the place that feels the best, a place that will challenge your viewpoints and will push you to grow, but still makes you feel supported and comfortable. 
I often hear students say “these schools are basically the same.”  


Even if they look similar on paper (both large public or both private liberal arts) they are NOT basically the same.  One of them is a better fit for you based on your personal preferences.  


Putting in the work to figure out the differences will give you the confidence you’ve made the best decision for YOU.


If you’ve secretly felt your decision deep down all along but you’re just nervous to say it out loud and commit, trust yourself and your instincts.


Finally, when you have made your decision take time to CELEBRATE this fun milestone with your family!


If Augustana is in your final two, take this time to schedule a final visit to campus. You won’t regret it. 


 

Courtney Wallace
Courtney Wallace
Director of Admissions - Chicago Region