I’ll be honest, choosing a college was a really hard decision for me. I applied to 13 different schools and (not to brag, but) I got into all of them. I was lucky. I had a lot of choices, but that also came with a challenge. THE choice. It’s kind of a double edged sword. Here are a few of the things that I had to consider before making the ultimate decision.
This one may seem like a no brainier, but what do you want to study in college? The first thing to do is to make sure that your prospective college has what you want. Some schools might not even have your major. When applying, I was surprised to see that a lot of schools that I was in love with didn’t have musical theatre as a major. Don’t make the mistake of picking a school that has something “close” to your major or you will be studying something you’re not interested in, just because you wanted to go to that school. You’ll be miserable if you do this.
Almost half of college students start out their freshman year as undecided, and if that is your case, chances are you’ll change your major multiple times. Most people do. Check if your school is flexible about changing majors. If you’re not quite sure on the future you’d like to pursue, you want to make sure that you’re not in a program where you’ll be locked in with no hope of getting out or having your credits transfer over to something else you’re passionate about.
I think this topic gets undervalued in many people’s minds, although it is an important one. How far away are you willing to be from home? Are you okay with mom dropping by on the weekends, or do you want to get as far away as possible? Maybe you want to stay at home and commute to school. These are things to consider. Also, something that contributed to my decision was the city or town surrounding the school. Personally, I couldn’t see myself in a small college town where all there was to do was go to the same bar, Denny’s or Applebee’s. I picked a school that was in a city where there would be a lot to do. I didn’t want to be passing around a joint in someone’s dorm room. I wanted to be out and about having new experiences. I’m not trying to crap all over these schools, I just know that I’m not that kind of person and I wouldn’t enjoy that kind of lifestyle. A lot of people do though, so that’s a deciding factor.
Did you apply for a school that was way out of your league just to see if you got in? I did, and I got in! But the question that I had to face was whether or not I could handle it. Do you really want to spend your first semester struggling to keep up in class? College is a big transition and having difficult classes will make that transition harder. If you’re going to be sitting in a class with geniuses that you can’t compete with and your GPA is going to suffer, maybe it’s not worth it. On the other hand, you don’t want to be sitting in a classroom where you aren’t challenged at all. If you’re not a party person, don’t go to a party school. If you are a party person, don’t go to an Ivy League. Don’t waste your time and money on a school that’s too easy for you or the opposite, find your fit.
Another factor is the opportunities that the college has. If you want to be a business person, go to a school with a good business program where you’ll be able to network and make connections. Some schools will even grant money to people to jumpstart a company or a project which will give you a lot of experience. Try to pick a school that will be a good resume builder. If you want to be a doctor, maybe being in an acapella group won’t matter that much, instead choose an option that offers pre-med programs and positions where you can shadow real doctors or get internships. Or maybe you want to be an actor. Pick a school that puts on a lot of productions and casts undergraduates in the shows. A school may look like a great fit at first, but you need to dive a little deeper. Think about what you’ll need to have under your belt when you graduate from college. Wouldn’t it be nice to already have had some internships, numerous connections in the industry or a few lead roles in a play?
This is a HUGE one. College is expensive and you don’t want to be in debt for the rest of your life. This is a really hard one and it’s heart breaking. Try to get as much financial aid and scholarship money as possible. You really don’t want to have to pay off student loans for the rest of your life. Also, make sure that the education you’re getting is really worth the amount of money that you’re throwing down. Don’t go to the most expensive school in the country if you can’t afford it. It’s hard to find out that you can’t go to the school of your dreams because you can’t afford it, but that’s reality.
Another big one is the population of the school. Do you work better in a small classroom setting, or in a lecture of hundreds of students where you can’t really ask questions? If you don’t know, find out. A lot of my friends that went away to their dream schools only to discover that they disliked lecture halls as they found that a class of 600 other students was too overwhelming and they couldn’t handle it. However, maybe you find a small group setting, where you have to talk and participate more, too intimidating. It’s all about knowing what’s best for you. Make sure you find that out for yourself and take it into consideration when you’re picking a school.