Deciding Between Colleges: Which One Should I Go To?

Trying to decide between two (or more) colleges is a good problem to have. It means you have options, and you probably have a couple of good ones. If you’re excited by more than one of the possibilities within your reach, if you have to decide between two colleges, making your final decision can be difficult. In fact, the days leading up to May 1,Decision Day, may be filled with dread, second-guessing, and nervousness. This week we picked up some tricks for students who find themselves in this situation.

The first and most important thing you would want to do is to compare your financial aid packages. in fact, it’s so important that it may make the decision for you. While comparing packages keep your eye out for your total family contribution. That’s the amount you’ll have to pay out of pocket.The bottom line is that if School A is offering to meet 100% of your financial need and School B is only meeting a small part of it, it’s usually a good idea to steer yourself toward School A. A college’s commitment to meeting most or all of their students’ financial need also means a commitment to serving a student body that is socioeconomically diverse.

Next you should get in touch with your prospective department. If you have already developed a specific academic interest, compare the departments of the two schools. If your potential major is in the sciences, look at the labs, research opportunities, and faculty. If your interests lie in the humanities, what are the department’s resources like? Get in touch with the professors of that specific department or even students you might know. Make a list of questions before you email, but be sure to ask that student about his or her personal experiences, too.

you’re likely making a decision not just about where you want to study but also where you want to live. So, unless both schools you love are located in the same neighborhood, look at the big picture. Sure, you’ll want to see what their campuses are like, but take time to investigate the towns in which they are located, too. Is the neighborhood walkable? What’s the crime rate? Are the living expenses affordable in that location? You’ll likely live in this town for four years, so be sure you can make the most of its location.

If your decision is this hard, it probably means you’ve received two wonderful offers. By all means, make an effort to visualize yourself at each, to explore the differences between the two schools, but the truth is, if you think both offers are amazing, they probably are. You’ll likely find happiness at either school. Go with your gut.


The Author is a rising Junior at Columbia University studying Computer Science and Psychology.

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