Crushing College Choices: Tips for Picking Your Perfect Match

Picking a college is exciting! It can also play a huge role in shaping the life you want for yourself. There’s a lot to consider, including the size of the school, academic offerings, cost, and location. While your top priorities may differ from other students, everyone should consider these key priorities when making this important decision.

1. Academic Fit: As you explore each college’s academic fit, first look at its admission criteria, including acceptance rates, average test scores of incoming students, and if the school is open admission or competitive admission. Do your grades and test scores match these ranges? You can use admission criteria to help narrow down your matched college list. 

Then, look at the classes offered at each school and make sure they have the topics and majors that interest you. Check out the professors who teach these classes. You want a school that has a strong faculty and provides the support you need to succeed. Also, research the career services, study abroad programs, accelerated graduate programs, and service learning opportunities. A school with solid internship programs and job opportunities will help you get the experience you need for a career after graduation.

2. Affordability: Cost is another key factor to consider when selecting a college. Don’t let a school’s sticker price, the yearly tuition, books, room/board, and fees discourage you from applying. Most students do not pay this price for their education. You can use a combination of financial aid, scholarships, and grants to help reduce the overall cost of attendance. Check out My Scholarships on the Encourage app and explore scholarship criteria and applications. 

Since the amount you pay, or the net price, is unique to your situation, compare your costs of attending each school and choose a school within your budget. You’ll find a net price calculator on each school’s website. Use this tool to help you estimate your individual cost of attendance. 

3. Location: Think about where you want to live and what kind of environment you’d like to be in. Do you want to be in the city or somewhere more rural or suburban? What kind of weather do you like? What kind of activities are there to do? These things can all make a big impact on your college experience.

4. Social fit: Check out the types of people and activities at each school. Does the college offer identity centers, religious clubs, Greek life, intramural sports, or communities where you fit in and can make friends? It’s also a good idea to visit the campus and talk to current students to get a feel for the atmosphere. Make sure the college you select provides the type of social atmosphere that’s right for you.

Once you’ve established your top priorities, you can create a balanced list of colleges with a mix of strong academics, a healthy social fit, and excellent financial aid options.