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How to Define Your Priorities and Make Your College Choice Easier

It's that time of year when high school seniors start to see college rejection and acceptance letters roll in. For some, this means that a tough decision needs to be made in a relatively short period of time. If you need some help deciding where to go, this list of steps might do the trick.

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By Sarah Wright

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What's Most Affordable?

This may be one of the easiest ways to make your college choice. Unless money is absolutely no object, you'll do a favor for yourself and anyone else involved with financing your education by letting finances weigh heavily on your decision. Presumably you're having trouble deciding because you're willing to attend several of the schools that accepted you, even if you like some a bit more than others. If you're willing to go to an affordable school, even if it isn't your absolute favorite, you should consider it heavily.

If your favorite school is expensive and isn't offering you any financial aid in the form of grants or scholarships, you should think carefully about whether you want to be saddled with a huge loan burden after graduation. Loans may take away the stress of financing your education up front, but they will have to be repaid eventually.

What Do You Want to Study?

Even if you think you know what you want to major in, sit down and make a list of subjects that are possible candidates of interest for you. Look at your prospective schools' websites and course catalogs for ideas. If one of your schools doesn't have many of the subjects on that list, you might want to cut it.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Business
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Sciences
  • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Legal
  • Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Mechanic and Repair Technologies
  • Medical and Health Professions
  • Physical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Transportation and Distribution
  • Visual and Performing Arts

What Do You Want Classes to Be Like?

Are you OK with the concept of sitting in a large lecture hall? Would you rather have smaller classes that involve a lot of discussion with the professor and your classmates? Colleges of different sizes often have dramatically different means of presenting classes. Some students end up not being able to really connect with subject matter in lectures, while others prefer the anonymity. If there's a difference in course delivery among your college choices, think about what's right for you.

Where Do You Want to Live?

Hopefully, you narrowed down your initial college choices using more substantial criteria than this. But now that you've applied to schools that can offer you what you want academically and culturally, thinking about where you want to live is a completely reasonable way to make a college choice. You'll likely be spending four years living where you go to college, so factors like climate and environment are worth serious consideration.

Let's say you've been accepted to three schools: one is a mile away from your parents' house, the other is in a large city and the third is in a remote, rural location. Which environment suits you best? Do you really want to stay so close to home? Is city life a bit too much for you on top of the other adjustments you'll have to make? Does the idea of living miles away from anything but campus freak you out a bit? Thinking carefully about this can prevent you from making a decision you might come to regret.

Following a boyfriend or girlfriend to college isn't the best way to choose which school you'll attend.

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