How do I choose the RIGHT college? [part two]

choosing_a_college_normalAs promised, some factors I believe you should think through as you make your decision. Even better, think them through on your own and then, process it all with your parents! (Notice I said on your own. Try to do this without being influenced by your best friends.) As for your parents, your mom and dad are dying to help you make this decision. DYING. Some of you know this all to well, but some of you feel your parents haven’t said a word to you about it. Most likely, they are trying to give you independence and see if you can make this big decision on your own. Whichever way your parents are reacting, by thinking through these items alone and then approaching them to further process, you are showing them that you can be an independent thinker and make decisions yourself, but that you also value and respect their input. Trust me, this is a win-win.

So here are 5 things to consider, in no particular order. There are so many more I could list, but this is a good starting place.

1. Do you know what you want to major in? If so, you want to consider this at some level in your choice. Learn about each university’s department. Choose your top 3 colleges and compare each one. Do they have different requirements? Does one have a style you prefer? Some majors matter more than others. Let’s use nursing as an example. Some nursing programs don’t officially admit you until the end of your sophomore year. Some may require different types of labs or internships than others. Or music majors, can you finish in 4 years? Or is it okay if it takes 5? I could go on and on… you get the idea.

2. Finances. I know you may not want to factor this in, but it really, really matters. How much does each school cost? How much money are your parents giving you? What type of financial aid and scholarships are you getting? DO NOT consider loans as aid the school is offering. Loans are not scholarships. Loans are debt. I STRONGLY encourage you to do everything possible to not take out student loans. I know students who take out $100,000+ in loans when they could be going to an in-state, public school for $14,000 a year. I know you think you need to go to that private school for $45,000 a year, but when you are still paying off your loans at age 40, you may wonder if it was worth it. Really look at which schools are the best deal.

3. Campus environment & culture. Big, medium, or small? Classic collegiate feel or urban? Christian or secular?* If at all possible, you should visit your top 3 schools. Soak up the environment. What fits you best? Are you afraid you’ll get lost in a 30,000+ student population? Or do you love the idea of a huge state school that’s crazy about football? Typically, you feel it in you gut whether you like a campus environment or not. This is when it’s really important to listen to yourself and not let your friends influence you. If you can see yourself in two completely different settings, that’s okay! That’s why this is one factor to consider among many.

*Christian v. secular is a whole other topic for another day, but I would be remiss to not at least mention it in #3.

4. What is the Christian community like on campus? Whether you’re looking at Christian or secular institutions, this question applies. If you are at all serious about your relationship with Jesus, this question matters, and unfortunately, it’s one of the hardest ones to know ahead of time. Ask current students or alumni of the school. When you go to visit, ask what Christian organizations they have on campus. How many do they have? How many students are involved in each one? There are so many things I could say on this topic and I will another day, but the bottom line is– is there a thriving community of believers on campus that will encourage you in your walk with Jesus? Both Christian and secular schools can have this or can lack this. So don’t jump to conclusions right away. Investigate.

5. How far away am I willing to be from home? This should be the easiest question for you. My freshman year of college, I went to a school that was 12 hours away from home. I wanted to get as far away from Northern Virginia as I possibly could. (though California seemed a little too far). However, I had 3 younger siblings at home, and I found I hated missing important weekends more than I anticipated. So a year later, I transferred to a school that was only 2 hours away. I still didn’t go home much more than a handful of times each semester, but I liked the idea that I could drive home and back on a Saturday. (I should note, I transferred to be closer to home, for financial reasons, and because I changed my major. See what I’m getting at?)

So there’s five things to consider. Think them through and discuss with your parents. And here’s [Part One] in case you missed it!

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