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How to Choose the RIGHT College for You (Advice I Wish I Knew Before)

Accepted to multiple great college options or deciding which schools to apply to? Here are different factors to consider while finding the RIGHT college for you. These resources are SO HELPFUL that I wish I knew about these tips when I was making my decision; the process would have been WAY less stressful so keep reading.

6 Factors for Deciding on the Right College for YOU

Not too long ago I remember when I got my college acceptance letters and feeling quite confused from both nerves and (mostly) joy. I was torn when deciding between UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, or UC Santa Barbara. I asked my family members for advice which wasn't a holistic analysis of all the universities. After working as a college and career coach, I realized there are more resources to help students make more informed decisions. Hence, I'm sharing the following tips to guide strategic college acceptance decisions.

  1. Pros & cons list: Break out that pen and paper or open up a Google/Word document to create a pros and cons list. Documenting the best and not so favorable aspects of colleges will make the decision making process easier since you can review your thought process. Keeping organized and being methodical will help give more clarity in making this important decision.

  2. Review Cost: It is important to understand the associated costs of an education and how that debt burden might affect you and your family. While gaining a college education is the ultimate goal, students should consider how to be financially secure after graduation, or they may find themselves in massive debt. Consider how much your family could afford and understand the financial aid offers around grants, scholarships, and loans. I highly recommend to reach out to the universities to appeal for more financial aid if your family needs more funding.

    1. Keep in mind to multiply the yearly cost by 4 if you're looking to attend a 4 year institution.

  3. Opportunity of employment: Review online resources to compare statistics around employability of college graduates from specific institutions. The goal of graduating from a top university is to gain practical relevant education to kick start your career. Ensuring the school you choose will be the best platform to achieve career aspirations is crucial. Different resources to find information around employability are U.S News, College Board, or your school platforms such as Naviance to name a few.

  4. Opportunities of academia: Understand what opportunities exist for your field of study including undergraduate classes and research opportunities. We all have our favorite teacher throughout our education. Some favorites are my freshman year English teacher, Mrs. KT, my drama teacher, Mr. Griffin, and my witty AP U.S History teacher, Mr. Devincenzi. Hence doing your thorough research on RateMyProfessors will help ensure your registered courses will be worthwhile since you will be doing tons of studying and homework - might as well make it enjoyable!

    1. A little story time for you: I decided to go to UC Berkeley mainly because of the opportunities around academia. There were a few celebrity professors and one most notably was Robert B. Reich who is currently teaching at the Goldman School of Public Policy. He has served in three national administrations, including as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His course on public policy was eye-opening, enthralling, and still impacts me to this day!

    2. Caveat: Do a holistic review of the different professors at the institutions in case a professor you had your heart set on happens to no longer be at the college when you join.

  5. Resources and unique opportunities: Review the college's career resources especially around counselor support and how involved they are in organizing events such as job fairs and on-campus recruiting to help students land highly esteemed full-time jobs. Additionally, look into study abroad opportunities around location, programs, and if schools still have them (could change due to pandemic). You'd be surprised how others don’t have as much support in this space.

    1. My study abroad experience: Studying abroad in the Netherlands was my most memorable college AND life experience that I value dearly. I participated in the UC Education Abroad Program which allowed me to early college credit while experience rich culture. I strongly believe the opportunity shaped me into the person I am today widening my perspective of valuing diversity and inclusion.

  6. Experience and research campus culture: Each school campus varies due to location, student population, curriculum, and many more factors. The culture could really make or break a student's entire college experience; hence, it's critical to spend ample amount of time researching if the culture is a good match for different learning styles. Some ideas on how to experience culture are:

    1. Physically visit the school:

      1. Plan a college campus visit or work your family vacation schedule around visiting different campuses. Ideally do this throughout your high school career so you aren't rushing towards the end. Ask the school for a student led tour as current students give the most up to date insights.

      2. Eat at a nearby cafe or read a book at a local coffee shop to get a feel.

      3. If you were admitted to the university, they often hold admit day events which I highly recommend you attend.

    2. Virtual school research:

      1. Leverage the following online peer to peer reviews on schools to get candid feedback: StudentCrowd, Unigo, UniBuddy, WhatUni.

      2. Find an alumni member or preferably current student (could be a family member) to share their experience going to the institution.

      3. Search social media like YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook of current student review on the colleges.

      4. Post your questions on online community groups like Reddit or Quora

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Once you've completed the pros and cons lists, review them, critically think through the options, sleep on it, wake up in the morning, and GO WITH YOUR GUT! Good luck :)

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