Decisions, decisions: A guide to help you decide where to go to college

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It’s that exciting time of year when high school seniors hear back from the universities they applied to! If you received multiple acceptances, it’s also a period of research and deliberation over where you want to go to college. This is no easy decision, and not so long ago, I was in the same position. Here is my two cents on the factors to consider when deciding where to go to college.

Academic programs

One of the key factors to consider is whether the university offers a strong program in your intended major. If you have a good sense of what you want to major in, determine which university would offer the best resources and expertise to enable you to excel in that field. If you’re not certain of what you’d like to study yet, keep in mind that you would want to go to a university that is well known for a wide range of majors. In this way, you are more likely to have an enriching academic experience no matter what you choose to study.

Engage with students currently attending the university

It’s important to get an idea of the general student life and campus atmosphere, and there’s no one better to tell you all about it than students currently attending the university. Reach out to your high school’s alumni who currently attend the university you’re interested in or get connected with someone through mutual friends. Make sure you have no lingering questions about the experience of attending said university. If neither of these work out, you can always ask on online forums like Reddit, where you can get multiple people’s perspectives at once!

Take a virtual tour of the campus

You might not be able to physically visit the campus at this time, but take advantage of virtual touring to get a feel for what it’s actually like going to classes at the university. It would also be helpful to read about the student population and the general atmosphere of the campus’s location to get a sense of your next four years.

Private vs. public

There are many differences between going to a public university and a private university. For starters, the student population at public universities is typically larger compared to that of private universities, and this often translates to much bigger class sizes and a larger student-teacher ratio. Additionally, if you are considering a school in the same state, you will have more opportunities for financial aid grants and reduced in-state tuition.

Opportunities outside of classes

For a well-rounded college experience, it’s also important to ensure that the university has specific opportunities and resources tailored to your interests. For instance, I was accepted by a school that had a better academic program for my intended major, but was not as well-known for its research as UC Berkeley. Since pursuing research projects outside of academics was important to me, I decided that UC Berkeley was the better choice. Similarly, think about the availability of specific extracurriculars or interests that you are passionate about among the places you are considering.

Location and weather

These final two aspects were not deal breakers for me personally, but many do consider their level of comfort with the weather as well as the location. Can you stand rain for most of the year? Or if you’re someone who’s miserable when it snows, how would you feel going to a school near the Great Lakes? Similarly, when it comes to a metropolitan city versus a countryside location, do you tend to prefer one over the other?

A parting thought — don’t sweat it! At the end of the day, college is what you make of it. Don’t get worked up in the details and enroll in a university you think would be the best fit for you!

Contact Nandita Radhakrishnan at [email protected].